The Only Productivity System That Actually Works


4 words: Just. Fucking. Do it.

I don’t use to-do lists. I don’t use a productivity system. They don’t work.

And I know they don’t work for millions of other people. If you’re one of them, don’t fret. You’re not alone.

You know what does work?

When there’s something you have to get done, do it.

When you need to exercise, exercise.

When you need to make dinner, make dinner.

When you need to go shopping, go shopping.

When you need to floss your teeth (daily!), floss your teeth.

When you need to go to the doctor, start eating a better diet. Then go to the doctor.

When you need to call someone, call them.

When you need to send an e-mail, send it.

When you need to write a blog post, write a blog post.

When you need to write a thank you card, write a thank you card.

When you need to practice, practice.

When you need to have a difficult conversation with a friend/business partner/significant other, have that conversation.

Stop making excuses.

Stop searching for a productivity system that will “magically” make it all work for you.

Just. Fucking. Do it.

Whatever it is.

More? Kill your to do list and focus on one thing at a time.

More, more? Just fucking write.


  1. This generally works, but I often have moments where I’ll have a burst of ideas or tasks one after another. In those cases, I can’t do them all immediately, and I’ll forget if I don’t make a list.

    I’ve taken to making a note in my phone of the items I can’t do right away, and I revisit when the priority tasks are done. It’s a simple system, but it compensates for my forgetfulness.

    • Hey Clint,

      Right, I write stuff down as well. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is when there’s something that needs to get done, get it done. :)


  2. The “fucking do it” system is so awesome. Once you start using it, there is no way back and it feels that all you can do to help other people is tell them about it.

  3. People are often overcome by the fear of failure, so maybe it’s time to shift our paradigm. Thomas Edison didn’t say he made 10,000 failures before he figured out the light bulb – he simply found 10,000 methods that wouldn’t work! You won’t get anywhere if you don’t start. Here’s to action!

    • Damn straight Casey! (Although the Edison thing is often mis-stated. He actually had his people do all those experiments/failures then took the credit when it finally worked. hehe)

  4. Wise words Karol.

    i have tons of lists with plans i have, but nothing actually goes. i made some money lately by *just doing it* so its a way better method. never a strike is always a miss;).


  5. What about people like me? I’ve implemented one of those productivity systems in my life and it works just fine ;)

    (It really does! No joke)

  6. Karol,

    Love the straight up simple advice. while I have my own methods for being productive, the root of all of it is just doing what needs to get done. That’s all there is to it. I find that if I know what needs to get done and I just do it, it seems to work.

  7. Bold statement – productivity systems don’t work…and a wrong one. True, they don’t work for everybody but then neither does swiss cheese.

  8. Applying a productivity system just adds another layer of complexity to doing the sh*t that needs to get done. All the time you spend implementing whatever method the system imposes is time spent away from actually doing what needs doing. You’re therefore not as efficient as you could be by Just do(ing) it!

    That was and is the great Nike slogan. Whoever thought it up was pretty money…

    • That’s a great way to put it Gianpaolo. It adds another layer of complexity. For those of us simplifying our lives that is just not OK. :)

  9. You are so right. You convinced me. I’m gonna out and walk on the beach and hunt for sand dollars. Be back soon. Bye!

  10. LOVED this post. So simple and yet so true. And thanks for the link love on your latest round-up. It’s much appreciated.

    Now I’m off to write that blog post and work on my ebook… :)

  11. Hey Karol,
    Why did you bold the bullet point about the conversation with the significant other? Have you been watching my life lately???

    Thanks for the post :-)

  12. Karol, you say “When you need to go to the doctor, start eating a better diet. Then go to the doctor.” then link to your article on stress-free vegan travel! You of all people should know there are ways to be unhealthy while being vegan, and healthy while eating meat (eat food. not too much. mostly plants.) Veganism isn’t a magic bullet.

  13. I have come to being a list guy. I love it and it works for me. Stating that “I don’t use to-do lists. I don’t use a productivity system. They don’t work.” is somewhat strong. I make a list, I get things done. Therefore it works.

    Maybe I am not seeing things the same way….


  14. I should have read this much earlier today – I would have gotton a LOT more done. Great system and thanks for the reminder!

  15. Whatever you’re taking, I want some! Seriously, though, couldn’t agree more. Used to be a compulsive list-maker, but now I just scrawl down ideas as they come to me and only put reminders on a calendar for date-sensitive things. When you know what you’re after the path becomes clear, and all you have to do is to just effin’ do it!

    • Hey Meg! :)

      I’m absolutely addicted … to bananas. :)

      I also write down ideas and that type of thing. But you said, when you know what you’re after, the path is clear and you just gotta do it.


  16. Reminds me of an interview I heard with Clara Hughes, a Canadian speed skater who raked in a bunch of Olympic medals over a number of years. She was talking about the pain you experience toward the end of a race… everything hurts. It even feels like razor blades are coming through your eyeballs, she said. And it’s usually not the best trained body that wins. It’s all about the head. She described starting out her sessions saying to herself “Okay Mind, what are you going to let Body do today”.

    Okay Mind… get shit done.

  17. Oh, man – that first line cracked me up. :)

    Can’t say I disagree with you, though. I spent about thirty minutes the other day looking for a good daily planner/scheduling app…only to realize that a) why the hell do I need one and b) if I just *do things,* I don’t need a to-do list.

    This post, as you can imagine, hit right home. That’ll be my motivating mantra from this point forward: “Get shit done.”

  18. We are the procrastination Nation. I think a lot of it is we have stuff on our list, stuff in our lives we don’t want to deal with. I put things off when I am overwhelmed. I know what to do, I just don’t want to do it. You are right. Just do it!

    A long time ago someone gave me a little round brass disc about the size of a quarter, that had the words “TO IT” molded into the metal. It was a round TO IT. I was a procrastinator and said I would do something when I got around to it. My friend said that now I had a round to it, there was no need to delay the action I needed to take.

  19. Strong words.

    I mostly agree but I hold a little bit back. Sometimes there is strong need to prioritize. Trying to do everything at the same time as they “need to be done” will only create 10 botched jobs.

    BUT…if you are (as i think you are) speaking of using lists as a method and excuse to procrastinate. Then yes, I wholeheartedly agree, Just fucking do it.

    Good new add campaign for Nike too, by the way

  20. Lol, straight to your face.

    You should write a follow-up to Leo’s Zen to done ;)

    Karol’s minimalist guide on productivity: Just fucking do it.


  21. This is amazing. It should go into a 2 page e-book with your “Don’t fucking eat unless it’s time to eat” diet plan.

    On a slightly unrelated note, earlier this evening I was freaking out over what to write on my blog today. My boyfriend looked at me and said, “Just copy one of Karol’s posts! It’s available!” He was totally joking, and it made me laugh. It completely took me out of my paradigm of stress and anxiety. I came up with a topic and some (non-Karol-Gajda) words about ten minutes later and then just “fucking wrote”. :-)

  22. I wanted to learn touch typing for some time, but you know no action. I did it yesterday evening. Slowly, but I can do it now. Your subliminal messages again, no wonder you are releasing Mind Control Method! :) And yes, I touch typed this!

  23. “Do what needs to be done” is the essence of productivity, but no one will sustain high productivity for very long without some kind of systematic discipline to organise and execute around priorities. If you’re telling me you work without either of those things, I don’t believe you. You might not think of your work habits a “productivity system”, but chances are you have all kinds of systems that you operate within. I’ve noticed you make a habit of replying to just about every comment on your blog (which is beautiful, by the way), so either you’re highly reactive to incoming communication, or you’ve worked out some kind of systematic practice to make that activity more effective. Would that be right? Productivity systems aren’t about action anyway. They are about decision making.

    • If you call responding to comments whenever I feel like responding to comments a productivity system then yes. You’re dead on. It’s the “just fucking do it” productivity system. ;)

      As for “all kinds of systems.” Yes, I do have a system. It’s no system. Maybe I can do a 24 hour live webcam. ;)

      • Interesting. So, do you have any structure to your life at all? Any routines? or do you just take every moment as it comes? Do you think there’s a difference between “whenever I feel like” and “when it has to be done”? If that’s the case I imagine you’ve managed to simplify your life quite a bit and only focus on one thing at a time? Sorry about all the questions — I really am interested in your ideas on this. Best.

        • Hey Lach,

          I do what I think is important. Sometimes that’s answering comments, sometimes it’s playing my guitar, sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s sending e-mails, sometimes it’s eating, sometimes it’s sleeping, sometimes it’s riding my bike. :)

          But I think you may be mistaking goal-setting for a productivity system. They are monumentally different. Although my goal-setting consists of mostly a mind control method letter. Just one. :)


          • Hmmm. I’m crystal clear on the difference between goal setting and productivity; just as I’m clear on the difference between planning and doing. But your day-to-day execution has to be directed towards the attainment of your goals otherwise you’re being “efficient but not effective”. I’m just suggesting that you don’t have to be writing things down in order to have a “system”. E.g. brushing your teeth everyday is a system too, though you probably don’t think of it as one—just something that needs to be done. Most people find they have so much information to manage they need a more structured system to keep track of it. But perhaps you’ve succeeded in simplifying life more than most. I’m going to check out your mind control method. Cheers :)

  24. Haha… nice. Unfortunately being in the land of shitty internet (most of the time… today has been surprisingly wonderful) means that those dreaded ‘to do’ lists become your friend. When I try to upload something and can’t because of the connection… I write a note. If my memory didn’t suck so badly, it wouldn’t be an issue.

    So… bad internet + terrible memory = ‘to do’ lists. For me, at least.

    • Hey Kirsty,

      I understand. :) I write a lot of stuff down too. Writing down articles/business ideas/thoughts is different than a productivity system.


  25. Yep. And the momentum of actually getting something done motivates to get the next thing done. The feeling of progress and accomplishment fuels motivation. It is easy to get in a rut, or feel overwhelmed by having soooo much to do that I spin my wheels and don’t get anything done – sometimes an old fashioned (virtual) slap in the face to snap us out of it is exactly what is called for.

  26. Thanks for the subtle message. It’s so easy to get distracted by television or the internet when something really needs to be done. Especially when your working at a computer and a million distractions or only a click away. We’ve trained ourselves to make excuses and we don’t expect 100% from ourselves or those around us.
    We use “trying” as an excuse for not “doing”.

    • You’re welcome Eric! Was it subtle? ;)

      We use “trying” as an excuse for not “doing.” <– dead on. "Never try, either do it or don't waste your time." Philip Anselmo

  27. Karol,

    Fantastic…just do it. (btw, the language doesn’t add or detract the impact of what you are saying…but I’m all for expressing freedom of speech)

    The systems people try to implement make their lives so complicated. If only they realized there is no magic pill. I simplify on a daily basis and there is no need to have big lists and plans, even for my blogging regiment…I just Fu*((( do it.

    Well said. If only more people would practice it. We can only try.

  28. This is the slogan you’d get if you put George Carlin on the Nike account.

    I’ve created a desktop image with this message in huge bold letters. Now I can just start fucking doing it every time I fire up the laptop.

    I’m enjoying the blog.


    • haha! I love George Carlin. If you haven’t checked it out, Last Words, his posthumously released book, is fantastic.

      Thanks for your support Duke!

  29. You can spend hours, days, weeks even trawling the net, reading books, trying to find the “one true system” that works for you, gets you out of the productivity rut, and eats into your outstanding tasks…

    Not one of them can hold a candle to “JFDI” – it’s powerful because it’s simple and it gets things done.

    Nice to read “in your face’ advice like this for a change – it’s a welcome antidote to all the light and fluffy feel-good crap out there.


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