Once upon a time, I had a pretty good system for staying on top of all the things I had on my plate at work. It involved a notepad, Google Tasks, and Google Keep, with a dash of prioritized email folders.

What I didn’t notice until recently was that my system was deteriorating. Stuff in my notepad never made it into Google Tasks, notes in Google Keep got pushed down below the fold where I never scrolled, and my email folders were stuffed to the brim. I found my response time to things I needed to get done began to lag, and I realized I started a lot of my emails with, “Apologies for the delayed reply.”

This erosion came to a head one Wednesday afternoon when I noticed I had seven pages in my notebook peppered with tasks that I hadn’t gotten around to. Fortunately, I hadn’t missed any critical deadlines, but I definitely felt like I needed to reboot in order to get myself back on track.

I don’t have anything shiny and glorious set up yet. I’m still practicing ways for me to stay on task. I’ll probably write more about my progress later. I just want to note that the main lesson I learned from this was that any productivity systems only work when I stay actively engaged in it. When it becomes rote and mindless, it falls apart.