A new (but old) productivity system


The debate rages on. What is the best productivity system, set up, and workflow? What’s the best way to organize your tasks, plan your projects, or structure your week?

And what’s the best app for putting it all together?

If you’re like me, you’ve tried a lot of systems (and apps), and continue to do so because you might find something you like better, or something you can adapt to your current setup. 

It’s also fun to hear what others do. This morning, I read a discussion about this very subject. 

One guy said he has a friend who has used GTD for the last twenty years and he asked him a question about his setup. The friend told him he no longer uses GTD, or any system at all. He writes what he needs to do for the day on a slip of paper. 

That’s his system. 

No lists, contexts, priorities, or tags. And no apps. Just a simple list. 

Shocking, I know, but also refreshing. If you have a piece of paper and a pen, you don’t need anything else. 

Make a list. Do the things on the list. Make a new list the following day. 

You spend no time organizing and reorganizing or manicuring your lists.     

 It reminds of me of the way we used to do things. Before PCs and smart phones. We had a paper calendar and a legal pad, and that was all we needed.  

I wrote my list for the day on my calendar where I could see it alongside appointments and things I wanted to remember. The only prioritizing we did was to put things in the order we needed or wanted to do them. If something was really important or urgent, we’d circle or underline it or write a star next to it. 

And the next day, we’d make a new list. 

Long-term planning? That went on the legal pad, or in a file folder. Long-term dates? Those were put in a big (red) book. 

And it worked. 

And there’s something appealing about this system today. Clean and simple.

No, I’m not going to make this old system my new system. It’s a bit too simple for me now, especially since I know what else is available. And because I like my devices and apps.

But the next time I spend too much time tinkering with my system, and not enough time doing the work, I’m going to remember the way we used to do it, grab some paper and a pen and make a list.