How to cope when your productivity system breaks down

It happens to all of us at some point – our productivity system breaks down, and we feel as if things are spiraling out of control. Things were going just fine in your task and project management app. You were on top of the world processing, organizing, reviewing, delegating, doing; and then something happened that completely derailed you. In this post, I’ll talk about the “three R’s” that will help you get back on track.

How to cope when your productivity system breaks down


Take a piece of paper and rewrite all of your next actions. It might sound trite, but it is not. The purpose of rewriting all of your tasks is to regain focus. It allows you to reflect again upon the importance of why you wrote these tasks down, and importantly, if you’re missing anything.

  • Did you start the task with an effective verb?
  • Is the task even still valid? Perhaps you haven’t scanned your list in a while and you it is no longer relevant.
  • Should the task really be a project? In other words, should this task be broken down into several smaller tasks? For instance, “Buy a lawnmower” can be broken down into “research lawnmowers online”; “go to the store to look at lawnmowers”; and “call the store to see if they have it in stock”.
  • What can be delegated to someone else?


With a fresh perspective and a new take on all of your projects, reorganize and re-prioritize them. Because, if you can’t name the things you are working on, then you really can’t prioritize.  Worse, you can’t really focus. Looking at your re-written list of tasks, projects, do the following:

  • Pick 2-3 things that must absolutely get done today and why? Remember to balance what must be done against your commitments in your calendar to make sure you have the time.
  • Identify 2-3 tasks that you want to accomplish tomorrow and through the rest of the week. You’ll get to the smaller stuff, but for now, focus on what must be done.
  • What tasks from project related tasks can be placed to your daily list so that you are advancing not just the runway level but the 50,000 foot level horizons of focus.
  • From your list of tasks you’ve delegated, make sure you identify what must be followed up with this week.


Take a really good look at what you’ve done. You should applaud yourself for your efforts because by this point, you should feel really good. You now have a fresh take on all of your tasks, your most important tasks you must accomplish throughout the week, a better handle on your projects, and list of items you’ve delegated. With this fresh perspective, re-examine your task and project management app to see if it is really right for you. Your app might be right for your friend that recommended it online, but it may not work the way you work. Ask yourself:

  • Does it effectively allows you to easily scan your inventory of tasks and identify what must absolutely go right today?
  • Does it allow you to identify what you want to do next?
  • Can you quickly scan through a list of all of your projects?
  • Are you able to differentiate between your various areas of responsibilities?

Your Next Actions: Try applying these Three R’s to getting back on track in becoming more productive and let me know how you do!

About Daniel Gold

Daniel Gold is a productivity coach, keynote speaker, author, and podcaster. He is most well known for his eBooks, Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, Simplify your Life with Springpad, and Make it Happen: How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your eBook. Daniel is also the co-host of the GTD® Virtual Study Group podcast.