How to Setup a Minimal Productivity System

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

It seems the days of large all-encompassing productivity systems like GTD are over as Essentialism, Digital Minimalism and other more streamlined approaches take over. Even ‘productivity gurus’ such as YouTube’s Matt D’avela now tend to have a minimalist slant. In this post you will learn how to setup the Ultimate Minimal Productivity System.

While I love GTD and still get amazing value from it, I do recognize that things need to change. GTD was created in a world before popup notifications. A world that you could check your context list without being reminded about the 14 new messages you have on Facebook and 22 new likes on Instagram. We have to accept that every time we pick up our phones, our attention will be diminished and will power reduced.

What Minimal Productivity Systems are Available?

A productivity system spread across a capture app, calendar and list manager is just too exhausting to maintain in the 2020’s. Maybe this will change as we swap our phones for brain implants but who knows?

Until then productivity systems keep arising trying to address this issue.

  • The bullet journal exploded onto the scene in 2016 as an analogue solution to our digital problems In reality though it just meant something else to carry around but unlike a phone it doesn’t fit in your pocket.

Other systems have been touted as the next productivity saviour

What Is the Main Benefit of Minimal Productivity Systems?

  • Pomodoro addresses motivation and concentration. It can be hard to start a difficult task or to sustain prolonged focus. Working for just 25 minute chunks solves this.
  • Time Blocking – In a world where decision fatigue has set in before lunch, planning out your whole day reduces the number of important decisions you need to make.
  • The One Thing – Throw away your areas of focus, projects list, next action lists and short term goals and instead just do one thing!
  • Eat the Frog – Not exactly a system, more of a tip to prioritize your first task of the day – just do the worst one!
  • Simple todo list – This is the todo list everyone made before GTD came along, it still works.

There is no doubt that any of these systems will help you make progress on the things that are important to you. But are we loosing too much throwing away GTD in place of one of these simplified systems?

Is there not a happy medium that lets me keep more of GTD’s results without having to maintain all those lists?


If you’re looking for a truly minimal productivity system that will still maintain the complexities of your life without requiring much work, this is it.

None of the ideas I’m going to present here are new, in fact they all come from the systems listed above. But I haven’t seen anyone create a system with this configuration before. I think it is the perfect balance of efficacy and minimalism.

The Ultimate Minimal Productivity System

The system consits of two lists

  • A Running List
  • A Daily List

That’s it, that’s all you’re going to need to stay productive and not miss any task, project, thought or it-might-be-cool-to.

The simplicity of this system means that you can set it up in any app, software, or notebook you like. It’s going to work just as well in a full functioning note taking application like Evernote as it will in a list manager like Remember the Milk or task manager like Toodledo or Simpletask. It would work just as well in a Filofax, a loose leaf folder or a ring bound notebook.

How the System Works.

Any task or potential task that comes into your mind, is written on the Running List.

If you suddenly remember that your best friend’s birthday is coming and you want to get him something, write it on the list. If your boss asks you to create a report bringing in all the data the sales teams have collected over the last 10 years, write it on the list. If … OK you get the point.

  1. Every morning look through your list and choose a few tasks to write on your Daily List. These are the tasks you will do today.
  2. At the end of the day check the tasks you did off the Running List.

That’s all you need to do. Any tasks you didn’t get to on your Daily List will still be on your Running List so you don’t need to worry about them. Throw your daily list out and make a new one tomorrow.

With this system you get the main benefits of GTD.

  • All of your tasks are captured in a trusted place
  • Your mind is kept clear because your thoughts are all captured in to the Running List
  • As you go about your day you only need to look at a few tasks on a short list – reduces overwhelm

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