There are five key areas of productivity that must be mastered in order to build skills that are both effective and lasting. Mastery of these skills will enable you to take full control of your life. I call these The Five Fundamentals of Holistic Productivity.

  • WHAT are the five fundamentals?
  • WHY it is essential to master all five fundamentals?
  • HOW do the fundamentals work together to elevate your work, your goals, and your life?

The Jigsaw Puzzle

You can almost see it now. The picture is beginning to take shape. You already know what it will look like — a set of eight antique cars on an octagonal board. After all, this is your favorite jigsaw puzzle.

The cover of the box illustrates the completed puzzle. You could use it to help fit the pieces together if only you still knew where to find it. Instead, you are working from a vague impression in your memory.

Anyhow, it does not matter. This puzzle has a whopping 1,000 pieces! At least it used to. You have not counted lately, but by your last estimate almost 200 pieces have gone missing.

You will never quite finish this puzzle.

Do not be discouraged! Most people not only have missing pieces in their life’s puzzle, but they also have no concept of what the picture on the box looks like.

This lesson is about how the fundamentals of holistic productivity work together to enhance your life. Each fundamental is one piece of your puzzle.

  • Together they form the complete picture.
  • Together they help you identify a vision for your life.
  • Together they help you turn your vision into reality.

The Five Fundamentals of Holistic Productivity

Task Management

Task Management is the first fundamental because you have to reign in the chaos. You must gain control of your day-to-day obligations. If you do not know the full inventory of your commitments then you cannot make informed decisions about how to use your time. Something will inevitably be forgotten.

Time Management

Identifying what to do is the first step, but now you need time to follow through. Time Management is the second fundamental because it provides you with the tools to make space for your important tasks. Every busy schedule has holes where you can commit to work on something important. If there are no holes, then you need tools to help you make some holes. Without effective time management, your important tasks will just sit on your to-do list collecting dust.

Task Execution

You selected which tasks to do and you have scheduled time to do them. Now you sit down and think, “Okay, what now?” When you actually get to that moment, you need an execution plan. You need to know how to proceed or your valuable time will be wasted. You will work on the wrong items, or maybe none at all. Beyond helping with individual tasks, your execution plan helps with achieving your goals. It helps identify which tasks stay on your to-do list and which must be deleted. It helps identify which remaining tasks are the important ones. It helps find your big flies.


Learning skills to manage your tasks, manage your time, and follow though on your goals is an amazing life-changing accomplishment. That is, it will only be life-changing if you can make these skills a permanent part of your life. The problem with learning productivity hacks in isolation is that you are unlikely to keep up the new behavior for long-term success.

That is not life-changing.

The ability to take your newfound skills and turn them into habits will infuse you with productivity super-powers. You will continue these positive behaviors without thought because they will become as routine as brushing your teeth.

That is life-changing.

Inner Compass

Your execution plan will help you select the most important to-do items from your available lists. Your Inner Compass is what informs your execution plan which lists are even available. Your principles and vision for your life shape your decisions about everything. If you are not creating goals and projects that support your life’s vision, then you are flying your plane in circles. You are going no place. Listening to your Inner Compass will help you work toward what is most important in your life. It will help you set the right goals.

Working Together

  • Task management gives you control of your day-to-day.
  • You can’t do your tasks if you do not properly manage your time.
  • When you finally sit down to work on your projects, you will likely select insignificant tasks or the wrong ones altogether if you do not have a task execution plan.
  • None of the skills you learn will matter if you don’t continue to do them. Turning productivity skills into habits will create lasting, positive change in your life.
  • Knowing what is truly important to you is what will inform everything else.

Puzzle Key

The five fundamentals of holistic productivity are each important on their own. Working together, they form a holistic productivity system.

Each puzzle piece supports the others. Leave one or more pieces out and you risk working on the wrong tasks, the wrong projects, the wrong goals, or nothing at all.

Working together, the fundamentals allow you to see the full picture on the cover of the box (your life’s vision) and you have all of the pieces to complete the puzzle.

Embracing all five fundamentals of holistic productivity is the key to being effective, being successful and being a prolific achiever.


  1. What is your vision for your life?
  2. What are your goals that will make that vision come true?
  3. What are the projects that will make those goals a success?
  4. What are the tasks that will make those projects a success?
  5. When will you work on those tasks/projects?
  6. How will you follow through with your goals?


You might wonder why Antique Cars. It was my favorite jigsaw puzzle as a kid! Yes, I lost many of the pieces. I was eight.

Action Steps

Follow these action steps to begin to incorporate the five fundamentals into your life:

  1. Select a task management system. This can be a paper system, a digital system, or a hybrid system. There are numerous good solutions to choose from. Find one that fits well with your lifestyle. Use it every day.
  2. Begin using a calendar. This can be a paper day-planner, a digital calendar on your smart phone, or a web-based tool. If you already use a calendar, consider scheduling everything, even your down-time. You will find it helps to protect the hours that you expect to use for work and for play. It helps you to make more informed decisions when something new shows up and interrupts your plan. Honor your calendar appointments and your commitments to yourself.
  3. Track your progress. For each project you are working on, create a system to measure how much you have completed and how much remains. It is important to evaluate your progress on a regular basis, to reassess your needs, and to course correct when necessary.
  4. Develop new habits. Begin with a mini-habit. Break down the new habit into it’s smallest chunk so it becomes so easy to complete that it is hard to ignore. For example, every night before bed, review your task management system and identify your three most important tasks to complete the next day. This mini-habit will produce great results as you will know before the day begins what you must focus on. Identify the right productivity skills and turn them into keystone habits for maximum effectiveness. The result will be exponential to your effort.
  5. Write a Mission Statement for your life. This one will take time for reflection. Do not rush it. As you have learned, it is important to connect with your values and your principles. One way to do this is by writing a Personal Mission Statement.

Part VI — The Jigsaw Puzzle