The 4 Do-or-Die Principles of a Leakproof Productivity System

When you look at this image, do you see your Personal Productivity system at work? Y ou can fix this leaky bucket. It’s not that hard if you faithfully and relentlessly apply these basic principles.


Over the last several years working with Bay Area CEOs and with members of the Exkalibur Leadership Forum, I’ve learned that personal productivity improvements are one of the most important ways in which every CEO and business executive can Become a More Effective Leader.


Two Major Reasons … but many more.

First, it allows you to devote more time to the things only you can uniquely do … whether as a business leader, CEO, mother/father or spouse.

That’s why they’re paying you the big bucks – to do the things only you can uniquely do. If you don’t what only you can do, why do they need you?

Secondly, it allows you to focus on everything that has your attention … everything you care about … so you don’t miss your child’s soccer game … don’t show up at the wrong time … don’t forget that errand you promised your spouse you would do TODAY.


As I’ve watched CEOs struggle to spend time on their most important initiatives, I’ve worked hard to learn as much as I can to adapt powerful productivity ideas to help business leaders gain control and perspective over everything they care about.

It’s critical to have a comprehensive system

I’ve seen very few senior executives … and that too often includes those with a full time assistant … with a solid personal productivity program they can really trust … one which ensures they know where their focus needs to be at all times.

The 4 Do-or-Die Principles of a Leakproof personal productivity system

1. It must be complete

Any personal productivity program must allow you to capture, record, organize, review and do … EVERY SINGLE THING that is important to you.

You can’t leave anything out …

not Mom’s birthday card (“I’ll never forget that no matter what”), or

the stack of material I need to read (“If I keep them handy right here on my desk so I won’t forget them”), or

the list of people I need to call (“I’ve got that list here somewhere … where did I put that? … did I leave it in the car?”).

[pullquote]You’ll never have a system you can fully trust if it doesn’t contain everything that matters in your life. ~ Lary Kirchenbauer[/pullquote]

As many of you know, I am an avid proponent of David Allen’s Getting Things Done principles – GTD for short – because it’s a proven methodology to get control of all of the things that have your attention. (Some day, I need to write an article describing how I created and implemented some of these principles more than 30 years ago, just me. At that time, I didn’t have the foresight that anyone else would care about them.)

2. It must be leakproof

One of the core GTD principles is the collection of everything that has your attention so that it can be deposited and organized in your system.

You’ll never have a system you can fully trust if you can’t be sure it contains everything that matters in your life.

You know you need this if you have a bunch of different places you’re keeping track of things … a daily list of certain things you want to do …

the pile that you won’t miss on top of your desk,

the stack behind your desk,

the pesky emails submerged in your inbox,

a list of calls you need to return somewhere …

you’re in desperate need of a complete personal productivity program that you can trust … with everything.

While collecting everything that matters is a great start, alas, it isn’t enough. Why? For one simple reason: The inputs just keep on coming!

3. It must be accessible

In one form or another, mobility has been a driving force for most of the last 200 years … so even a great paper system residing in our desk drawer is no longer adequate.

While it might work if you’re tethered to a cubicle and never leave, most of us are on the move … keeping appointments, moving between buildings, working at home or in hotel rooms and coffee shops, often waiting for someone somewhere (they’re not supposed to be late) … and we need to have access to our trusted system all the time in a convenient form.

The digital tools that are available today are both comprehensive and accessible.

They can be synchronized across all of our mobile platforms.

Make sure you adopt a personal productivity system that allows you access to it at all times.

4. It must be current

Whatever personal productivity system you use, it has to capture all of the NEW inputs that keep showing up … email, voicemail, regular mail, interoffice mail, messaging sources … all of the “stuff” that relentlessly comes at us in our business life. That must also include all of the personal and family responsibilities as well.

There’s another reason why all of this needs to be integrated, particularly by us so-called knowledge workers.

These days, our business and personal responsibilities are intricately woven into a single, complex tapestry that demands attention from all of the aspects of our life.

There is no longer a bright line between personal and professional …

We don’t have days off to attend our son’s hockey game or our daughter’s volleyball game.

Whatever system you use, we’ve got to keep it up-to-date.

“Keeping it Current” is a kissing cousin to “Keeping it Complete” since our system needs to be updated all the time.

You can only keep it current if you make sure it’s complete when you start, but I’ve included this principle to emphasize that keeping it complete must be timely … it can’t be the next week or next month.

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The 4 Do-or Die Principles of a Leakproof personal productivity system

A trusted personal productivity system is the bedrock of getting anything done

A trusted system must be the foundation of your personal productivity program.

1. It must be complete

2. It must be leakproof

3. It must be accessible

4. It must be current

None of the tips and techniques you’ll get here … or anywhere else … will provide more than temporary and menial help if you don’t get EVERYTHING INTO YOUR SYSTEM.

Beg, borrow and steal tools and techniques from anywhere you can, adapting and applying them in ways that work most effectively for you. You’ll be off to a great start if you take advantage of our FREE mini-course, 5 Tools I Can’t Live Without.

Make sure you also take a close look at the GTD system, if for no other reason than to get some pointers that will help you no matter how you’re organized.

Get started today.

We’ll help you … so don’t hesitate to ask questions about how to go about it. Share your best practices, too, so everyone can benefit from your experiences. We’ll keep at this and if we’re missing something, let me know. Make sure you don’t forget to “Join the Conversation” so you don’t miss any of these updates.

Question: While you’re at it, what do you think is the single biggest obstacle keeping you from getting more done? Share your thoughts by visiting our Facebook Page or @Exkalibur on Twitter. Let’s figure this out together.

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