I am sure there are people out there who have a life where their GTD system can go into place and they can just work it for years. I don’t appear to be one of them.
The nature of my work is changing again, and I find that my GTD system has to change with it. When I had classes all the time, I had specific time-sensitive assignments to be done. My academic work is more reading-focused now, with far fewer deadlines that are much further out. My academic work also requires more concentration – I can’t just look something up but need to spend concentrated time on it. That requires more mental energy and, by extension, more time and focus. That means I can’t do it at the office. Bouncing back and forth no longer works.
Interestingly, I noticed the change because my system stopped working so I stopped using it. I started posting today about my GTD system falling apart again and realized halfway through that it was a signal; it fell apart because it wasn’t meeting my needs. When a tool isn’t fulfilling it’s purpose, the instinct is to set it aside and that is exactly what I did.
GTD needs to be viewed as an ever evolving system. The way you have implemented the system needs to be periodically revisited to ensure that it still meets your needs. If not, as I am finding now, the implementation may need to change.
GTD collapses also need to be viewed as a signal; something is wrong with the system when you let it fall apart. Are you putting the wrong things on your lists? Are you not clearing old items and they are starting to bug you? Are your next actions not specific enough? Are your lists not organized in a way that reflects your life and your work? If you’ve lost your system, there is something going on and until you identify what it is you can’t fix it.
GTD is only useful if it meets your needs. It is a tool, not a task-master. Revisit it regularly and give it a periodic tune-up to keep it, and you, running in top form.