“Is there a task management tool out there that can ensure perfectly streamlined productivity?” our project management team once wondered.

“Yes! That’s Me” – Asana, Trello, BaseCamp, Evernote, and all their cousins hollered back in harmony.

Sometimes individually, sometimes in combination, I have art directed and project managed through each of their systems. Many times to great effect, but never to perfect certainty. I’ve known for quite some time that I am not alone in my quest for productivity perfection. There are thousands of us out there honing our production processes. We’re always on the look-out for the fabled productivity tool that ratchets tight the last bolt, finally locking the rockets to our process for supreme thrust. But that day will never come.

“Even the best tools are are useless in unskilled hands.”

There is no process of noting or compiling tasks that does not account for the variable of human fallibility. Be it an app, a calendar, a to-do list, nothing will read your mind from surface to depth. It will never include all action items of importance for you. Not even A.I. No doubt artificial intelligence will be a fantastic tool upon its commercial release, but it will still be a tool. And the unskilled users of even something like an artificially intelligent project management tool will still fall just as short as they are currently falling.

“Even the simplest tools are effective in the hands of a master.”

So, what really makes one a master of productivity? They are simply organized executors. Regardless of the caliber of tool they use they get things done. It’s not about the tool, it’s about the philosophy. And here it is:

“The best productivity system is the one you USE.”

This is not a new truth. My team and I have also known for quite some time that “the best system is the one we use”. But let’s go a step further and look at the converse. Doesn’t this philosophy also suggest that the worst system is the one you don’t use? And if we’re always looking for a new and better productivity tool, doesn’t that kind of suggest that we’re not using the one we already have? Even though we can easily understand that “the best system is the one you use”, at some level we still think the magic productivity hack is out there. If you just winced it’s because you’re reading yet another productivity post, and have just been made aware of a neatly ignored internal hypocrisy.

Don’t worry, we wince all the time. The hypocrisy is within all of us. But hang with me, there may be a silver-lining to our foolishness and insatiable curiosity after all.

The truth about pregnancy books:

Studies unanimously show that soon-to-be-parents who read pregnancy and early childhood development books prove to be better parents than those who don’t. The authors and publishers drool over these stats and cite them whenever possible, slapping quotes all over their book covers: “Pregnancy books make better parents. Period.” Case closed right?

…Not so fast…

At some point someone had the notion that this was not a causal relationship between reading and parenting, it was a correlational relationship. In other words, it wasn’t that the books made the readers better parents, parenting was already of high importance to these people…and people who place importance on parenting tend to be better parents. They just so happen to be the type to read books on it. And so it is with us producers and project managers. Our mere curiosity towards productivity predisposes us for productivity masterhood, because we place a high importance on it. Reading about productivity and learning about new project management tools is the same as reading a pregnancy book in preparation for parenthood. It does not make us more effective, our internal nature already predisposes us for being effective.

The moral of the story:

The fact that you’ve read this entire post strongly suggests that you are already a highly effective and highly productive person. So stop searching, and use whatever tool or system that’s currently in place. You are a skilled tool handler, and therefore will produce masterfully and efficiently with whatever tool you wield.