Tools don’t work, you do.

Task management tools are only as good as the person using them. If you don’t use the tool, it’s not going to work.

I used to chase down different tools looking for new features or innovative implementations that will help me get organized and get more done. I’ve used Omnifocus and Todoist. I’ve gone full manual mode with a bullet journal, and, now finally, I’ve been using Things for the past few years.

The reality is this: none of those tools work if I don’t work them. A tool is dumb and only the skilled craftsman can make something of value (or get value out of the tools.)

At my company, Basis 365 Accounting we use Karbon as our workflow tool. It’s a great tool (and an expensive one) that wasn’t working for me. I had hundreds of overdue tasks, notes, and emails.

It wasn’t the tool’s fault. It was my fault. If Karbon were a personal task management tool, I might have declared task management bankruptcy and deleted everything to start over or even moved to a different tool. Because it’s a tool my whole company uses, I couldn’t simply opt-out of the tool.

I had to do the hard work of doing the work over a couple of weeks. I cleaned up, cleared out, and organized all my work in Karbon. Now, I just maintain it on a daily basis.

When I was cleaning up, I kept it simple. For each task, note, or email, I applied David Allen‘s Four Ds, prioritized in this order:

1. Delete
2. Delegate
3. Do
4. Defer

I looked for opportunities to delete things, especially things that are not essential. If I couldn’t delete it, I tried to delegate it because I’m not always the best person to do a task. If I couldn’t delegate, I would do it right away if it takes a short amount of time. If something takes longer, I schedule (defer) to a time in the future where I can focus on it fully.

I did it every day until it was cleaned up, which leads to the fifth D: do it daily.