The 4 Key Components of a good system

Photo by Robin Glauser on Unsplash

There are a lot of thoughts and content out there about how you should get things done. How you should organise your time and your life to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Whether it GTD (getting things done), Building a Second Brain complete with CODE (Collect, Organise, Distill, Express) and PARA (Projects, Areas, Resources and Archive), PPV (Pillars, Pipelines & Vaults) or C.O.D. (Collect, Organise & Do) complete with GAPRA (Goals, Areas, Projects, Resources, Archive), there is an acronym out there for you! All of these have merit — they really do. The one I favour most of all is Carl Pullein’s C.O.D. system mentioned above. The reason for this is that Carl is really trying to outline for us the absolute basics. There are many layers of complexity that can be built in above this base layer but this is the absolute essence of what you need. The COD system outlines 3 key components. I would suggest there are 4. This for two reasons. Firstly, I think a distinction does need to be made between two parts of the O in COD and secondly, be cause I think MY acronym is better then everyone else's!

What is it we are trying to achieve anyway?

When I graduated from Uni, I had a temp job at nPower for about 9 months. The job was simple. I had to go through a spreadsheet that was thousands of rows long and detailed failed meter readings. Readings that the system had rejected. I had to look at each row, go into the system and decide if the reading was correct and then manually accept it. If it was wrong, just leave it. The job was not complex. I did not require any kind of to do list or management system to get it done. Not even a calendar and I hardly ever got any e-mails.

The issue is complexity. The problem that needs solving is that our brains can only hold so much before we forget things. So, as our lives and work become more complex, we need a system to track it. We need a way to cope with that.

So — what are we trying to do? Manage Complexity. In short — COPE

So there you have it:

  • Collect
  • Organise
  • Plan
  • Execute

My COPE system. Do you see what I did there?

Photo by Marissa Grootes on Unsplash

There is a lot more to say on each of these, particularly the first and third one but in brief for today.


You need a way to make a note of everything that comes your way from multiple sources and potentially at any time of day or night. This could be tasks, ideas, notes & information, events and things happening. They could come from emails, things you read, things you see, adverts on the side of a bus, ideas you have, letters, conversations with people and even dreams. Your ideal means of collection should be available at all times, day or night and you should be able to access it easily. Ideally, you will keep the number of places you log things to a minimum. I have a digital inbox in my task manager & my notes app and I have a note taker wallet & pen in my pocket. The digital inboxes are easily accessible on my phone, tablet and laptop. This is so I can write stuff down without being distracted by other stuff.


I am not going to say that much here. Just the bare basics. You cannot operate with one long disordered list of tasks, notes and events. That would be totally unusable. So you need 4 things. A calendar or diary for events etc, a notes system for notes and ideas etc, a to do list of some kind and a place to keep documents and records. How you organise those different things is the subject of many posts and videos online and it is in large part up to you so I will leave this here.


This is the key step. Once everything is organised, you need a plan. I personally would not use my to do list to plan my time, nor would I entirely use my calendar. The issue is that I like my calendar to be kept clean and only for things that I have to be at or do, or things I myself have committed to. There will be plenty of time in the day that I want to use well, but if everything is on my calendar then I wont use it. So I plan my year, my terms, my months, my weeks and my days. In greater or lesser degrees of focus and detail.

The reason why this step is key is it enables you to establish priority and ensure that you are being pro-active with your use of time. The problem with many approaches is that, from my perspective, they value everything the same and miss out on this key step of deciding what is important and thinking through how much time something needs/you are prepared to give to it.


Do the work Mr Wood. Do the work!

Follow your plan — but be flexible with it as when you make a plan you (a) do not have perfect foresight of your energy levels and circumstances, and (b) want to allow room to actually serve and help others as the need arises.

So there you have it. COPE.



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