Ever wonder what the perfect todo list app is?

My coaching clients often ask me what the best task management app, journal, or notebook is — there seems to be endless options out there!

The answer is that there’s no such thing — everyone’s circumstances and preferences differ, so it’s very unlikely that there would be a “one-size-fits-all” solution out there.

Apps, notebooks, and journals are just tools, and tools should be interchangeable as our needs change. Switching to a different tool isn’t going to automatically make you more productive, what’s much more important is the underlying system that defines how you use your tools.

These are the five components of a productive task management *system*, regardless of the specific *tool* you may be using:

  1. You need to have a way to quickly and easily capture the things you need to do. Whether they come from emails, conversations, or your own ideas, you should be able to get them out of your head and into a trusted system, then continue with the work you were doing before. Jumping to a new task every time one arrives does not lead to getting things done.
  2. You need to have a daily todo list based on this “backlog” of tasks. This list should be realistic and achievable (you only have so many hours in the day, and if you overload yourself you’ll just end up feeling bad about the things you couldn’t get done).
  3. Once you have your list for the day you should try to work on just the items that are on your list. Unless time-sensitive and urgent problems come up — and they really do need to be emergencies.
  4. You need to work on the most difficult tasks first (eat your frogs), this way your work becomes easier as your energy levels deplete.
  5. As you work through your tasks, you need to try and work in periods of “focused time” — 30 minute or 1 hour chunks during which you switch off your email, phone, instant messenger, or anything else that can distract you and just focus on that one task.

A system like this results in consistently getting work done, no matter what tool you’re using to capture and organize your tasks.

In fact, the specific tool you use becomes irrelevant: by placing your trust in a system instead of a tool, your productivity remains resilient even when your circumstances or preferences change.