A large subset of the planner-using world is comprised of people who subscribe to one "system" or another of keeping their affairs in order. One that gets a lot of attention is "Getting Things Done," or GTD. If you somehow found your way to this site, it's quite possible you already know all about GTD. You may even be a GTD devotee.
I first heard of GTD when I ran across 43 Folders, a site whose obsession with paper and productivity dwarfs mine. My first thought was, "Hey, 'Getting Things Done' -- that sounds great. Who doesn't want to get things done?" So I trotted off to Borders to see if I could find this book that has inspired such a fanatical following. Man, was I disappointed when I saw it. It has the most boring cover, with a totally boring looking man on it. Check for yourself. Couldn't he have worn corduroys and Pumas? Or at least a black turtleneck? How about growing a quickie goatee or something? Sheesh. He looks like the man that I am deathly afraid I may be becoming: Yes, he may Get Things Done. But does he have any fun doing it? Does he loosen his tie doing it? I'm a damn lawyer, and I don't wear a tie unless something beyond my control compels it.
Why do people think you need to wear a suit and tie in order to Get Things Done? I Get Plenty Done when I'm wearing tee-shirts and paint-spackled shorts. In fact, if I need to look like the GTD guy in order to Get Things Done, let them stay undone.
I got beyond the cover long enough to open the book and flip through it. It quickly became apparent to me that Getting Things Done the GTD way requires work. There was lots of terminology I didn't understand. There were decisions to make about tickler files and folders and crap. As it turns out, all the Things you need to Get Done do not Get Done simply by adopting Getting Things Done. That was highly disappointing to me, and I didn't buy the book.
But some people are really into it. Some people are really into Franklin Covey too. The level of devotion that these people possess is creepy to me, and it makes me wonder whether they have reached a point where devotion to Getting Things Done exceeds the Things themselves in importance.
The Things are what are important to me, and I typically Get Things Done without subscribing to a system. However, for many, the system itself takes on religious dimensions. They are rules that must be followed, or the most dire of consequences will follow: You will fail to Get Things Done. Similarly, if you fail to adhere to the Ten Commandments, another dire consequence will follow: You will Go To Hell. All systems, be they organizational or religious, rest on the faith of the adherent. The adherent must say, "I trust in this set of rules. I trust that it will lead me to the promised land. As a result of that trust, I will follow the rules unerringly."
GTD is one thing; Franklin Covey is another thing entirely. I would not be surprised if that company actually seeks tax-exempt status as a religious group. I tried to go to a Franklin Covey store in a local mall a few weeks ago. I was greeted with a sign that said (paraphrasing), "Sorry, it's Sunday, and our organization believes Sunday should be the day for our employees to take stock and recharge and otherwise improve themselves." Hmm. Closed on Sunday, huh? Sort of like ... THE SABBATH. It made me afraid to get into Franklin Covey. Would I be allowed to watch football on Sunday? Or would I have to lie still all day, meditating on my core values?
Franklin Covey also evangelizes. Our local Target sells a low-cost version of the Franklin Covey system called "365." You can buy a binder with inserts for something like $10. Those cheap binders are missionaries that Franklin Covey has sent into the riff-raffy world, like free literature from Jehovah's Witnesses. Pretty soon, though, you're writing the big checks at the real Franklin Covey store. (But not on Sunday.) The Target models are gateway drugs; real euphoria must be purchased at the mall.
That's what I like about the Filofax: It's not religious, it's not dogmatic. It's spirituality divorced from ritual. Filofax doesn't tell you how to chant your mantras or perform self-acupuncture. It is just pieces of paper in a nice binder, configurable in whatever crazy-ass way you want. My Filofax didn't even come with suggestions on how to put it together. It had a set of cryptically named tags, various kinds of forms and paper, and a binder. And the package said to me: "Take me, pillage me, do with me what you will." Filofax is spiritual, not religious. Filofax, for all its Euro-coolness, is hippie at heart. "Hey man, I'm here for you. Rearrange me. Fold me. Cut me into useful pieces. Put crap into my slots. It's all copacetic, man."
I hope I'm not alienating my fledgling readership, since I believe that some of the Googlers who find themselves here may be seeking just what GTD and Franklin Covey are selling. To be fair, I haven't given GTD or Franklin Covey a fair shake. But I also haven't given evangelical Pentecostalism a fair shake. In both cases, I don't feel like I'm missing much.