David Allen & Merlin Mann

It’s almost 7 years old now but through the show notes of a Back to Work episode I ran across this interview Merlin Mann did with David Allen in 2006. It’s a compilation of 8 short conversations they had about everything from procrastination to priorities. 1

Something David said about work in general really struck me as interesting:

Most people haven’t acknowledged that their process is as much their work as anything else.

He also makes an interesting point about procrastination. We generally take procrastination to mean plainly not doing something. As David put it, though:

Procrastination isn’t just about not doing. It’s about not doing and feeling bad about it.

The point is that if you’re putting something off because you have more important and meaning full tasks to do in the meantime then it’s not procrastination, it’s life. The gut feeling of “Oh man, I should really get to this…tomorrow” is the issue as it’s your brain acknowledging that you should start on a task but you’re just not. Frequently that’s because you haven’t concretely defined the next step.

One of the concepts of GTD is ubiquitous capture. Basically the idea that you commit every note, idea, and task to paper or digital tools. As David put it later in the interview, “The mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” The problem is that truly capturing everything is hard. So most people assume a buffet-style middle ground will work. To paraphrase how David Allen discussed this: Either your head is where you keep things or its not. There is no in-between or middle ground. Do all of GTD or none of it. Otherwise the process and tools won’t do you any good.

There was a portion toward the end, too, where David riffs on the role of attention and your mind:

What has your attention?…If you don’t pay attention to what has your attention it will take more of your attention than it deserves.

Really great series of interviews that are well worth a listen.


  1. If you haven’t also read David Allen’s Getting Things Done I’d highly recommend it.