If You Can Get Into the Essence of Productivity, Why Not Trim the Fat?

In my post about the two simple rules of productivity, I wrote that:

With these two rules in place, the purpose of the rest of your productivity system (such as calendar and to-do list) is actually nothing but to help you figure out what the most important task at any given time is.

There is actually a hidden implication of this statement. If you somehow can figure out what your most important task at any given time is, you don’t even need a productivity system. Why do you need a productivity system if you already have what the system tries to provide?

I think it explains why some people are known for their ‘unstructured’ productivity. Darren Rowse from Problogger for example, said that he is “incredibly spontaneous and often work out of this”. Even Bill Gates said that he is “not big on to-do list”. I also know some other people who simply follow their intuition in doing their work.

The lesson is, you should find the simplest possible productivity system that works for you. What is the simplest possible system you need to help you figure out what your most important task at any given time is? Or maybe you don’t even need a system?

Just don’t waste your time trying to implement a productivity system you do not need.


  1. This is a very interesting point of view. Perhaps this is why I always lose enthusiasm for my system. I’ve always coped with scribbling things down on a scrap of paper. Why should that change?

    Organize IT

  2. Spike, I also felt that something is missing. There are many people who do not use any productivity system and yet they are productive. Just like you, they have their own ways of doing things which work for them without anything complicated.

    I hope this post could contribute to the discussion about this missing link.

  3. Well said. I’ve seen a lot of people become more focused on their system, than their actual goals. Sometimes I think people like to plan their work more than they like doing the work itself.

  4. I agree, Mark. Some people actually use their productivity system as an excuse to procrastinate. Ironic. Unfortunately, it might give them an illusion of productivity.

  5. I really like Merlin Mann’s lessons on this. He seems to say that it’s important to find a system that works for you. Whatever that may be.

  6. That’s very true, Ed. We should find system that really works for us despite current trends. Some people just follow trends without thinking deeply whether or not the systems really fit their situations.

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