The second key concept you need to embrace when you’re looking at your productivity management system is that you need to be solving a problem.

Changing your system is a painful expensive process. You already know the keyboard commands for your current tools. You know where they don’t work well and have devised ways around the issues that are presented. All your projects and tasks are in the system already.

This is an excerpt from my book Analogue Productivity: Bring more value to work with paper and a pen. Members get for free.

You have a huge amount of learning invested to make your current system as effective as possible. You have to reinvest if you want to get the maximum out of a new system.

When I have changed systems I spend at least two months with time set aside for learning the new tool. I read any books that have been published on the topic. I read blog posts that tell you how to use it well. I read blog posts that tell you why the system is terrible. I look at these negative reviews to help decide if they negatives apply to my use case. If so, I look for work arounds that are suitable to me and my life. This is what it takes to make a new system effective.

The reason that many people feel so much freedom when they change systems is that they have spent lots of time violating the Key Concept of Making Decisions, which we talk about in the coming days.

They’ve continually pushed decisions off to their future selves and thus the system is full of crap that makes it all feel overwhelming. They see a shiny object of some new piece of software and they jump at it. Not because it solves any problems, but because it gives them license to finally say no to a bunch of crap they’re not going to move over from the old system.

The relief is palpable on the face of many a business owner as they shed the cruft they’ve let build up and start with a clean slate focused on the proper priorities. The thing is, they get right back to where they were. The tool was never the problem. Their process was always the problem, and they took it with them.

Before you read further, take a look at your current productivity system. Where are there problems that drive you just a bit bonkers? What types of data doesn’t your system deal well with? Where does it create friction, which causes you not to use it?

We’re talking about the mechanics of the system so far. One issue with 2Do when I looked at it was how it handled attachments. I just didn’t handle them as well as OmniFocus did, so I stopped trying out 2Do after a few weeks. There was lots of stuff great about 2Do, but that one point was high enough friction that I dropped the tool.

What mechanics of your current system are a problem for you?


  1. Write down the problems that you have with your system.
  2. Rank these into at least two groups. The first is things that must be solved to change tools. The second is nice to have things. No you can’t have three groups.

Photo by: kwl