Doing Taxes or Sorting Socks- The Real Deal about productivity

Let’s be real– there are hundreds of apps and systems promising to help you with this thing called productivity.  And let’s be even realer, not very many people even like to do this productivity thing.  Although it has a nice ring and maybe can give you a little happiness hit “hey! i’m being so productive!”, MOST people put these apps in the same category as budgeting. Or doing their taxes. Or sorting their sock drawer.
Still being real, these are things that need to be done, but really people ultimately don’t like doing them.  To-do lists are not only kind of boring, but also a little stressful. On one hand they can help you organize and feel in control, but then they turn on you like a mad dog and they’re telling you all the things you’re NOT doing, things you’re dropping, stuff you’re missing. That nice puppy dog face just bit your arm!
So most people, in my informal polling, do not use a very consistent or methodical personal system for GETTING CRAP DONE. And yes, I’ve done a lot of informal polling. Why you might ask?
Let me tell you.
First, I’m a little obsessed with this conundrum– people really like to get organized, be in control, make plans and goals.  We know this because of New Years Resolutions and January gym memberships. But ultimately, it ends up like sorting those socks.
And second, I’m so interested in this problem that I bought a freaking productivity company called Appigo and we make the popular app Todo.
I’m just wanting to talk about REAL productivity because I’m fascinated by the dilemma we all face. Who doesn’t want to get organized, check off tasks, make plans and accomplish goals? But then WHY OH WHY do so few people actually employ the tools and systems of productivity?
My informal polling looks like this (and I’ve talked with 100s of people about their personal productivity process over the years):
Out of 100 people, only about 20 actually have a methodical, organized system in place. This is a pre-meditated system where the person can actually say “Yes, this is how I manage my busyness flow in life.”  And said system actually employs a variety of best of breed apps and processes.  It is intentional, regular, and methodical.
But those other 80 people? Some just have lots of chaos and they’re in pure reaction mode. We all know who YOU are because when we send you an email that is important and needs a response, it just slides down the list until its out of sight and out of mind. But some of these 80 people do organize themselves… a bit. This looks like using your email app as a to-do list. Or your calendar as a to-do list. Or writing things down on paper. Or jotting down to-dos in a note taking app, hoping you don’t forget about them and not really ever going back to review. Or, the very well meaning folks do download a to-do list app, use it for a week or two and then drop off. You would (or maybe not) be shocked to see the download numbers a company like mine gets in January and then the subsequent February retention rate. Its laughable. But also sad because all these people meant well! They tried at least!
I’m also curious about the 20% of people who are a little OCD about being organized… and yes I’ll definitely lump myself in this group. Do we put too much value on lists and check marks? Do we spend too much precious time in the sock-sorting, dubious-value category of checklists? Do we make other people crazy with us because of our Inbox Zero soapbox or constant nagging about tasks or due dates?
Just like the best camera is the one you have with you, the best productivity system is the one you’ll use. The elements of a good productivity system probably include:
  • Note taking
  • Projects, tasks, checklists, and reminders
  • Messages- email, text, chat
  • Calendar
And maybe most importantly, we all need a process and system to pull it all together. So what pulls it all together for you? How do you keep the flow of tasks, messages, notes, calendar events, and reminders tamed and organized? What ACTUALLY works for you?

One thought on “Doing Taxes or Sorting Socks- The Real Deal about productivity

  1. I love Todo-Cloud, but I’m very sad that in this new version I’ve lost the ability to drag & drop items from one list to another. It’s slower to have to double-click on an item and select the new list to move it to. Couldn’t the drag & drop feature be put back in, please?

    (It would also be nice to hide completed items and print lists, just like before.)

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