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Introducing the Do System for Productivity

The Do System is a productivity method that helps increase your output and decreases your effort. A work in progress for close to a decade, the Do System is built around ideas that have been refined through experimentation, measurement, and reflection. In this article we’ll define productivity, explain how the Do System works, and shed some light on the reasoning behind the method.

What is Productivity?

Fundamentals are an important part of any practice. It’s why professional musicians continue to practice the same scales they learned as children, or why all star basketball players take hundreds of practice shots a day. Like scales and accuracy, productivity is the attribute by which work is measured. In order to improve productivity it’s important to have a keen understanding of what exactly it is. 

Productivity, n.: The effectiveness of productive effort as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.

Let's take that a step further and put it into a math equation. 

Productivity P = Units of Output / Units of Input 

Now let's apply it. Say you have 4 tasks to complete (Units of Output) and 8 hours to do them (Units of Input). Your productivity would be measured as a 0.5. Don’t get hung up on the number, it’s an abstract intended to compare over time. Calculating P in succession will give you an estimate of how productive you are relative to other days. For example, if you increase P from a 0.5 to a 1.5 between Monday and Friday, you’ve become more productive.

Does this all make sense so far? Great. Now throw it out the window, because it’s a giant distraction. Following the above formula, while accurate, is a recipe for disaster. It promotes quantity of work over quality of work. You can do 20 tasks in a day, however minor they may be, and get a productivity rating of 2.5, versus accomplishing just 2 major tasks for a 0.25 productivity rating. There may have been a flurry of activity and boxes being checked off—with a wonderful air of “productivity” about it—but if the work done does not directly move you closer to your goals, it was a waste of time and energy.

The Do System focuses on quality over quantity. It helps you isolate the most important tasks, prioritizes them, and ultimately guides you to accomplish more with less.

How the Do System Works

The Do System aims to increase productivity through a logical breakdown and progression of projects and tasks. It’s designed around a simple, science-based principle that has the power to transform your work.

Pareto’s Law: 80% of your output comes from 20% of your input.

This principle essentially tells us that the vast majority of our work only provides a minor return. It is upon the back of Pareto’s Law that the Do System is developed, all starting with a singular question: What if we isolated the 20% and just focused on that? If the popular phrase, “Work smart, not hard,” comes to mind, you’re not alone. It’s a great slogan, but does nothing to tell you how to actually achieve smart work. The Do System is here to help.

The Do System is simple, elegant, and precise. Using Do, the Baronfig team—only eight people at the time of writing this—has managed to launch over fifty products and hundreds of campaigns.

Think of productivity as a river. The water starts high up on a mountain and ends in a valley or ocean. Similarly, the Do System starts with high level planning and ends in the depths of detail. It’s divided into three simple parts: Milestones, Goals, and Tasks.

First, you choose milestones. They’re big, broad, basic, and concrete. “Finish the first draft of my book,” is a great example. Second, you choose weekly goals. If you’re writing a twenty chapter book and you want to finish it in ten weeks, you’d have the weekly goal of writing two chapters per week. Third, you list your daily tasks. In this case you might break down your week by outlining the chapter on Monday, drafting it on Tuesday, doing the same on Wednesday and Thursday for the second chapter of the week, and editing it all on Friday. At that rate you’ll have a full book draft in just two and half months!

Why the Do System Works

Human beings are great at many things, but stepping back isn’t necessarily one of them. Most people tend to jump in and start working right away. It makes them feel good and productive. Unfortunately, while well-intentioned, it also invites a lot of wheel spinning—lots of activity without much movement. And, let’s face it, there are very few people out there who get excited when they hear the word “planning.”

Do is designed to help you slow down, decide on the ultimate goal, and plan backwards from the end to the present, breaking down milestones as you go. Starting at the end takes the mystery and guesswork out of a project—you will have a much better idea of when it will be complete, and, as a bonus, you will also be able to see timing issues long before they arrive.

You can start right now with these simple steps:

  1. List up to three milestones.
  2. Break down each milestone into weekly goals, no more than three per week.
  3. Break down each weekly goal into daily tasks, with no more than three goal-centric tasks per day. If you need more than three goal-centric tasks per day, you have too many goals for the week.
  4. Perform goal-centric tasks before any other task, every day.
  5. Reap the rewards.

If you’re looking for a guided experience to help you learn how to apply the Do System, check out theDo Work Journal. It’s designed from the ground up to facilitate Do in your everyday work.