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Productivity So Simple, A Caveman Could Do It

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’ve become pretty jaded.

I receive emails every week to review some new life-changing productivity software/system/tool that will most certainly change my life. While all of these tools mean well, 99% miss on the most important part of product management.


I’ve reviewed dozens of productivity tools, and I can say with certainty that the number one most important aspect of a good productivity tools is being drop-dead simple. Unfortunately, the number one most-overlooked aspect of GTD/organization software is also simplicity.

So, I do something a bit different, and it doesn’t require any schmancy tool that makes lists and a shot of espresso. I could use a sharp stick on leather if I wanted. (Note to self: get more leather at local tannery.) No, this system could be used on a phone, a computer, the back of a hand, turtle shell, anywhere. It’s the most versatile, ubiquitous system ever devised.

And I guarantee you’ll get more done.

Are you trembling with excitement, dreaming of all the free time you’ll have for doing all of those things you always wanted? You should be. This will change your life. Are you ready?

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The System

  1. Write 3-5 major tasks/small projects/etc. that have to be done today. (These are your Most Important Tasks (or MIT’s.) Do them.
  2. Capture all of the other little stuff that you have to do in the near future. Try to do a few of these each day, in order of when they need to be done (if there’s a deadline attached to them).
  3. At the end of the day, make a list of tomorrow’s MIT’s, and add some of the smaller tasks below them.
  4. Do this every day.

Are you picking up on my subtle sarcasm? You were correct in thinking there might be a little tucked in between the lines of this post. I can’t help myself, and it’s not because I’m disgusted with productivity software, the people who make it or the good people who read this blog that are interested in it. Everyone has their own system tailored to what works best for them (and they should!).

No, I’m disgusted with how many hours I’ve wasted fiddling, downloading, trying, tweaking, learning, changing, installing and comparing different types of productivity software that all promise to make my life simpler. Where has it gotten me?

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Here’s What I’m Doing

Because there are those of you who still want to know what my personal system looks like, I’ll indulge. It’s still really simple, even though I use software to help.

I start with an awesome tool called TaskPaper, a really simple but powerful list organizer. It allows me to quickly add tasks, sort them, and tick them off when I’m done. And it outputs to simple text files, so even if I wasn’t using the TaskPaper software, I could still use the same system.

You don’t have to use TaskPaper to plan your day, or any other software for that matter. It’s just comfortable to me, and it’s basically the same as using a text editor with searching and tagging built in.

If you’re thinking you’re still looking for the “perfect” software or tool to solve your productivity woes, it ain’t gonna happen. The problem is rooted deeper than that. It wasn’t until I realized that my productivity problems weren’t the fault of my software that I truly understood what it took to be really productive. It meant not using software and tools as an excuse to put of all the things I needed to do during the day. It meant taking responsibility for getting things done, and not relying on some tool to help me.

What about you? Do you find that your software or system gets in the way of the actual doing throughout your day?