The best personal productivity systems include two key elements. Attempting to adopt a system that doesn’t include both elements will mean unnecessary effort, confusion, and stress for you – the very things you’re trying to eliminate by using such a system in the first place.

The first key element is a strong methodology - a clear and consistent set of principles, rules, guidelines, and practices that direct you toward the most appropriate actions and behaviors. The methodology tells you WHY you want to be performing the recommended actions and behaviors. Without this knowledge, you’re less likely to stick with the behavioral changes inherent in any productivity system, especially when the going gets tough. By analogy, you’re more likely to hit the Nautilus machine if you understand what specific muscle groups will be enhanced by the exercise you’re doing and why that exercise will impact them. Similarly, you’re more likely to be rigorous about recording actions on your Active Task List (one key component of the More Productive Now system) if you understand why that behavior produces higher productivity.

The second key element is a specific means for implementing the methodology. The system should delineate a specific tool or set of tools that you can use to put its principles into play, and explain how to use those tools. The implementation tells you HOW to perform the recommended actions and behaviors. Without these specifics on how to implement the methodology in the real world, you’re left with an interesting set of principles but are left on your own to develop a way to put the principles into practice – not what you want to be spending your time on when your goal is to create more time for yourself! Using the same analogy as above, if you’re given an explanation of why it’s valuable to exercise certain muscle groups, but you’re not provided with the necessary equipment to be able to perform those exercises, the explanation will live for you as merely some interesting, but not particularly useful, information.

A solid methodology and a specific means for implementing it – the productivity systems that have the most impact will include both of these components.