The Productivity of Low-Hanging Fruit

Dr. Brett HowardPerformance

If productivity was a super-food smoothie, mine would be made entirely of low-hanging fruit (LHF). It’s not that all the juicer tasks are completed once I’ve cleared out the LHF, it’s more like…if the task is something other than an LHF (like learning how to use an ellipsis correctly), it shall permanently reside on the long-term task list.

Now, task lists composed of easy and quick items to complete I can do. And if you are anything like me, you will add the most trivial items to your list just so you can cross off its completion to add some heft to the evidence of a productive day well-spent. But, a life completing LHF does not a dissertation, term-paper, clean garage or tax return make.

So we need a task-management system for the rest of us who, on our most productive days, can maybe get a handful of non-FaceBook or Fantasy Football-related items done per day. A task system composed entirely of LHF.

“Break your larger tasks into a series of smaller and more manageable tasks.”
– any previous teacher of mine


  • make the smaller tasks no larger or cumbersome than a typical LHF
  • keep the new LHF task list bright, modifiable, and in front of you (not stuffed in your pocket on your iPhone)
  • use a timer or a productivity app like 30/30

Here are two examples of LHF-oriented task lists. Note how the individual tasks are small enough that they could be completed pretty easily during a commercial break or presidential candidate debate. (Special thanks to Levenger for the easy-on-the-eyes robin’s-egg-blue task list.)


Keep the list in front of you (or next to the remote or even on your computer, via post-its) and if you can’t find the motivation to get even the first LHF done, put it on a 15 or 30-minute timer. You can’t write a term-paper in that time, but at least you can write part of the introduction or a few good paragraphs, no?


Nobody said that LHF had to be unimportant, they just have to be small enough to be completed in a style that fits our motivation and productive energy. Now go forth and be productive!