Meet the Dark Lord of Productivity Issues

darklord   photo by kennymatic

At times everyone feels overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do.  A lot of people feel like that all the time – it’s as if the evil dark lord has you in his control and he’s causing you to suffer day after day. 

You’re tired at the end of the day and you still have a lot to do…

You create a to do list, the phone rings and you promptly start working on today’s emergencies…and the to do list gets shifted to tomorrow!

You drop important messages or ideas, not because they aren’t important, but because you simply got overwhelmed with everything else and it got dropped in the shuffle.

So what is the evil villain responsible for all of this misery?  Realistically there are a lot of reasons why these kinds of productivity failures happen, but it all starts with a common issue – you have too many collection points!

What?   Let me explain…

Think about a typical day…


of course you get emails, in fact if you’re like most people, you get emails to your work email account and to a personal email account (maybe even more than that).


You also get phone calls, that translate into some sort of action – maybe a written note on a pad near your desk, or in your car, in your office, etc.


Then there are the phone calls you don’t get to – the voicemails asking you for some information, some action, some kind of response…both personal and business.  Of course you actually get voicemails on your work phone, your mobile phone and likely your home phone.


Then there are the meetings – meetings with customers, meetings with co-workers, meetings with networking partners, prospects, friends and that guy down the street (you’re not sure where he fits).  Every meeting likely generates some action items – maybe you take notes in a regular notepad, or on a napkin at the coffee shop…or maybe you just commit to remembering for later!


An employee drops by and asks you for help.  Your admin passes along a note from a vendor that stopped by.  Your spouse asks you to pick up some bread on the way home.

Too many collection points!

All of the examples above are collection points – if you add them all up…i.e. add up all of the possible ways that you can and do collect things that you need to do, you would likely end up with at least 15 to 20 different ways that you have to keep track of everything you do!

If you think about it, it’s actually amazing that you get as much done as you do!  On top of having too many collection points, many of them require you to remember what you heard, what you were told, what you say before you can take any action on them.

Did you know that your mind can only hold 5 to 9 things at any given time in short term memory?  That’s why you will often lose your train of thought when the phone rings.  So what happens to your important stuff to do when you add a couple more things to to the queue?

What can you do about it?

If too many collections points is the dark lord of productivity issues, then how do you go about defeating him?

The answer is simple…although it’s not easy.  You have to simplify your collection points and funnel them all into a system that’s easy to use and that you can trust.  Everybody’s system will be different, but the recommendation is to use a tool like Outlook to translate all of those inputs into clear actions, tasks and appointments that can be easily tracked, prioritized, delegated and dealt with – all in one place.

The key is to get everything out of your head and into your system…where it won’t get lost and where you can choose what to do and what not to do based on actual importance to you (instead of just being the last thing in your head).

What’s your experience with getting things done?  Do you know what all of your collections points are and do you have a clear, preferably automated way to manage those inputs?  What keeps you from being productive?  I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

2 thoughts on “Meet the Dark Lord of Productivity Issues”

  1. claydickason says:

    Interesting outloook Shawn.

    I could spend all day focused on just collection points and never accomplish anything of value.

    It's like monitoring boiling water without ever putting anything into the water to cook. In the end I've got an empty pan after the water has boiled out and I'm still hungry because I never bothered to put anything to eat into the pan.

  2. skinkade says:

    Clay – great point and that's what's insidious about the whole thing. Most people are really busy, they have a lot of activity, just not a lot of productive output to show for it.

    Figuring out and managing the Collection Points is just the first step…to complement that you also need to have a systematic way to prioritize and do only the highly productive work (highly productive based on what's really important to you).

    Finally – you need a way to continually improve your process so that it becomes part of a day to day habit that works! (Simple but not easy).


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