Your System Doesn’t Matter

“That’s so simple! How did he write a best-selling book on this stuff?” Those were my first impressions after reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done when it was first released. I was amazed that an entire book could be written on managing to-do lists. Yet, I found myself using the system and actually getting more done than I had before.

Then life happened. At first it was subtle. I stopped doing my weekly reviews. Then I stopped updating my lists and just keeping things in my inbox again. So I thought, “I need a new PDA! With a new PDA, I’d certainly be better at entering everything.” And I was. For a while.

After the newness of the PDA wore off, I fell behind again so I declared to-do bankruptcy and started over. It was great for a while and then I slowly reverted back to my old habits. Deja vu all over again.

Since then, I’ve tried countless productivity softwares and hacks. I’ve tried everything from the low-tech 3×5’s and text documents to expensive productivity software and web sites. I’ve tried the Pomodoro Technique and time blocking. I’ve tried just about everything.

But you know what I’ve found? It doesn’t really matter what you use. All of those systems can work, some better than others.

However, all of them will fail without discipline. The most important factor in staying productive is discipline. Find a system that works for you and keep at it. There will be times when you love it and times when you loathe it. The important thing is to keep at it.

I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t stop doing something that isn’t working for you. What I’m saying is don’t be too quick to blame your tool. Eventually, like me, you’ll run out of tools to try and realize that what you need is discipline to stay at it.

By the way, my current favorite is a variation of the Kanban system using Trello. It’s working pretty well. But I think it’s because I’ve determined to make it work.

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