How To Immediately Increase Your Productivity Output by Improving Your Input

DarrylBrooks by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

It doesn’t matter what sort of productivity system you employ if things keep slipping through the cracks. A complex, multi-platform GTD compliant system with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and mind mapping is no better than sticky notes on your monitor if it doesn’t get the job done.

And by it, I mean you.

It makes no difference what the ‘system’ is, you are what is driving the system. And as we used to say back in my programming days, ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ If the data you enter into your system is no good, then the information you get from it will be flawed.

But that’s not the biggest problem with productivity systems. The problem that will make any task management system ineffective reminds me of another analogy from my early days of computing. Like many old-timers, we started with a monochromatic green phosphorous screen that displayed what was then called low-res. People that began in the 4k world would be appalled at the resolution we used for text at 40x48.

But it was mostly used for capturing input, and it worked fine for that. The screen would display a prompt, such as First Name: and a blinking green square would follow this. And that green square would blink forever if you didn’t start typing something in. There is probably a screen somewhere on the planet right now, with a little green square that has been blinking for 40 years waiting for one thing.


No matter how simple or complex a system is, it needs input. Without input, it’s just an empty receptacle. Useless.

But that’s not you. Your system has plenty of input. Pages and pages of information, sorted and displayed in tables, and boards and charts, oh my. You have priorities prioritized, and flags flagged and dependencies depending on things. You can tell me what you should be doing three weeks from last Tuesday.

Then why do things still fall through the cracks?


It’s like that silly robot from the old Ally Sheedy movie, Short Circuit; you need input.

Not just any input and not most input, but all input. Everything that comes to you in whatever form, it needs to be captured. If you can’t do that quickly, easily, and consistently, your system is flawed. It will have holes in it. And those holes will become apparent as soon as someone says, “I thought I told you to…” Or you suddenly remember that thing you were supposed to, and now it’s too late.

What happened?


Or rather, lack thereof. No matter what the system is, you have to develop a method of capturing input. All the time and from anywhere.

Because, let’s face it, that’s how information comes at us today. All the time and from everywhere. At once.

And if we don’t capture all of it, things fall through the cracks. One of the best things about an effective time management system is that we don’t have to remember anything. But that’s also a pitfall. We lose the habit of memory.

If it’s not on the list, it doesn’t exist.

Back in the 1970s, when I was shackled to a paper system, that notebook was always with me. Always. Nothing slipped through the cracks. But with today’s computerized systems, even with the ubiquitous cellphone, it takes a little more effort. But it is no less critical. It’s probably more so because, in this information-driven age, things are moving much faster. David Allen, the creator of the Getting Things Done method, said it best:

“Funnel all potentially meaningful inputs through minimal channels, directed to you for easily accessed review and assessment about their nature.”
― David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Once you have your system designed, it’s not complete until you have figured out all the ways and places you might get input, and how you will ultimately funnel them into your system. Ideally, a single system would encompass all of this, but if it exists, I haven’t found it. I have narrowed it down to two that work very well for me.

Evernote is my primary input system and holds most reference material. ClickUp, is my task and project management system. It is excellent and covers more bases than anything else I have used, and I have used them all. And while it is terrific at organization and output, the input is still a bit lacking. I do not doubt that they will fill those gaps soon. All email that requires action goes directly into ClickUp.

Meanwhile, I capture everything but email into Evernote through a variety of mechanisms. There is a widget on my phone that will allow me, with a single click, to enter any random thoughts. I can scan documents directly into Evernote, and any file saved to a designated folder on my computer automatically is added into my Evernote Inbox.

Clearing out that inbox and putting things where they belong is, at the very least, a once a day task.

The only place in my life where I haven’t devised an input system is in the shower. Maybe, I could write a note in the foggy glass with my finger.

And that is the one tip you need for a bulletproof task management system. You have to be able to capture and reference all of your input. Many of you are probably thinking that this is obvious. Still, I have communicated with dozens, maybe hundreds of people who have asked me about my system, who lack a reliable input system. And without it, no amount of charts and boards and priorities will be complete.

But with it, the rest is just icing on the cake. Because once the input gets on the list, it never comes off until it is done. You can move it into categories, color-code it, or whatever you want, but it’s in there. It will get done because it’s in there.

And that is the bonus tip for today. Once the item gets entered, the only way it leaves is if you complete it, or decide it doesn’t need doing. Ideally, you will move it into your system within 24 hours of input, or worst case in your weekly review, but regardless, it’s there until it isn’t.

Also, there are a couple of mechanisms I use to process these random inputs. One is to move it immediately to the top and get it done. Swallow the Frog.

But even if it’s a low-priority task and starts at the bottom, it doesn’t stay there. As I do my end-of-day routine and move things into the next day, low-priority items get a promotion. This ensures that things don’t drag on from day to day and never get finished. If it is genuinely a non-priority task, then it goes in my someday or unscheduled buckets.

But it still follows the two primary principles, which makes my system a success.

Everything goes on the list.
Nothing comes off the list until it is done.

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I am a writer with over 16 years of experience and hundreds of articles. I write about photography, productivity, life skills, money management and much more.

Alpharetta, GA

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