The Search for the Holy Grail (full article)

The Holy Grail of Productivity – And Why it Doesn’t Exist

Over the years, many people have emailed me asking for productivity help. Sometimes, the person decides the answer is the perfect “To-Do” app. Then they hit me with the $64,000 question: Which To-Do/Note taking/Organizing app/whatever app is the best?

The Holy Grail of productivity isn’t an app. It’s a system with some habits that help you “get things done” and avoid overwhelm. Use any app you like. But it is the habits you wrap around it, that will make it great.

Like high end golf clubs, an app won’t make you a PGA grade golfer!!!!  New apps are NOT going to solve your “too much to do”, “not enough time”, or “how to I organize my stuff’” problems.

EXTRA POINT (optional). If it is the “perfect to-do app” you are looking for, don’t even look. To-do lists are often counterproductive and just add to overwhelm and getting the “not important stuff done, at the expense of the important”. Scientists call that “Completion Bias”. Rather than focusing on high-value activities, you spend your time chasing the dopamine rush that comes from ticking off a series of “Seemingly -urgent, [but in the bigger picture] not important” tasks.

Many people have email me to me for productivity help. Then I answer the email and they said, never mind, “I found an app (Todoist, Things, OmniFocus, Evernote, OneNote, Roam, etc.) so I am all set”.

Once in a while, I hear from that person again and ask, how did “Todoist, Roam, Things, or whatever work out” and they said they picked the wrong one, and are trying out their 5th app, but are sure if they just find the right one they will be set. Then they add “BTW-Any ideas on which is the best?”.


  • There are now 132 to-do app on the market on last count from CNET (and with small differences they are all basically the same).
  • Often just changing the configuration of the tools you are already using can lead to a massive productivity boost.
  • It isn’t about the tools. It is about the habits your wrap around them.

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