9 Productivity techniques to help you get the job done

No matter what you do, where you work or how good you are at your job, everyone has days where every hour feels like a year and, no matter how hard you battle, you simply can’t keep your mind on the task at hand.

There’s no doubt you’ll have fretted over your own productivity at least once. It could be caused by a manager pressing you to be your most productive self or the unshakeable feeling that if you aren’t working at 100% for 12 hours of the day your endeavours will fail.

In truth, your own productivity levels probably aren’t that far below average. Some research suggests that the average hours an office worker is actually productive could be as low as two hours and 53 minutes!

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work towards increasing your own productivity, so to lend a hand we’ve gathered together some of the most useful productivity boosting hacks we could find.

Getting things done (GTD)

This is one of the more famous productivity techniques and involves two key stages.

The first stage requires listing out all the things you need to do, writing them down or putting them into software. Basically, get them out of your head.

The creator of the GTD methodology, David Allen, says these tasks can be broken into 6 areas; current actions, current projects, areas of responsibility, 1-2 year goals, 3-5 year goals and life goals.

Once all your tasks are outlined in these categories you can begin the second step, which is essentially getting them done.

Any tasks that do not take much time to do can be done now. Any larger projects can be broken down into smaller tasks that you can do quickly.

Who’s it good for

If you’re the sort of person who often feels overwhelmed by projects this could work well for you. It makes even the longest term goals seem more achievable.

Disadvantages

There is a good deal of set up involved before you actually get to completing tasks, which may not be plausible for some people.

Zen to done

If you like the sound of the GTD method but feel it doesn’t fully fit your needs, Leo Babuatas’ method, Zen to Done (ZTD), may be better suited to you.

It focuses more on habits than system and requires you to structure your day around 3 “most important tasks” and your week round several “big rocks” (projects).

It also aims to create habits that will help you to get tasks done, such as capturing ideas in a notebook and reviewing goals weekly.

Who’s it good for

If you’re looking for a simple system that you can get started with straight away, then this could be good for you.

Disadvantages

ZTD doesn’t really focus on time management, rather on workflow management. If you feel your time management is what’s lacking structure this system may not be much help to you.

Pomodoro

Another of the more famous productivity techniques is the Pomodoro technique, invented by Francesco Cirillo.

The premise is very simple in that you break every task into 25 minute slots (called Pomodoros). After each pomodoro you take a 5 minute break, and after 4 Pomodoros you take a longer break.

There are 6 additional objectives;

  1. Find out how many Pomodoros an activity takes
  2. Protect your pomodoro from interruptions
  3. Estimating the Pomodoros needed per activity
  4. Structuring each pomodoro into Recap, Work, Review
  5. Creating an appropriate timetable
  6. Focus on personal objectives

Who’s it good for

If you like adhering to a tight schedule and have the ability to remove distractions more easily (maybe by working from home) this can be a great solution.

Disadvantages

This technique does limit flexibility and creativity, and you may find that consistent increments of 25 minutes work at a time doesn’t suit you.

The flowtime technique

The flowtime method could be the solution if you like the sound of the Pomodoro method but can’t work around its limitations.

Rather than breaking tasks up into time slots, you simply get to work on a task while recording your start time. When you feel like you need a break, record your stop time and make a note of any interruptions.

Set a timer for your break, and then repeat the process. Over time you should build up a picture of not only how long certain tasks take, but also at what times of the day you are more productive.

Who’s it good for

If you’re creative and often find that you get in the zone with a project, this could be great for you.

Disadvantages

If you get distracted easily, this might not provide enough structure to get you to push through and get tasks done.

Don’t break the chain

Inspired by Jerry Seinfeld, this is a really simple method that you can get started with straight away.

With this system, you simply take a calendar, decide what you want to accomplish every day to help you reach your goal, and mark an ‘X’ over the days you do it.

Further suggestions for getting the system to work include figuring out your overarching goals and the daily minimums for each goal, creating a plan for lapses (holiday, a day of travel or meetings etc) and putting your calendar in a prominent place.

Who’s it good for

If there’s a project you’ve been putting off doing for a long time because it seems out of reach (e.g. writing a book) or you struggle to build good habits, this system can help you.

Disadvantages

This isn’t a method for making your whole day more productive and won’t really help you when it comes to time management.

Autofocus method

This is a great method when your key concern is getting tasks done.

It involves making a list of all the tasks you currently have to do, then drawing a line under it. To begin, you read through your whole list once, before reading through a second time slowly to find an item you are ready to do.

You then focus on the task at hand and begin working on it until either it’s complete or you feel you are done with it. Cross it off the list and, if it’s unfinished, it’s finished for now but is a recurring task or it’s finished but leads to another action, then enter the new outstanding action below the line.

Continue working through your original list until all the tasks are complete (or if unable to be completed, then highlighted). Then you move onto the second list below the line.

Who’s it good for

If you have an extensive list of tasks and are always forgetting what you have left to do, this can work really well to help you get everything done.

Disadvantages

When a task suddenly pops up that is urgent, it can throw off the top list that you are working through.

Stoplight method

Just like the autofocus method, the stoplight method uses lists to help you organise your tasks.

It breaks tasks into three lists:

  1. Red list for tasks that require immediate action
  2. Yellow list for tasks you need to finish within two days
  3. Green lists for less urgent tasks

Start by focusing only on the red list, when that’s complete move onto the yellow list and then the green list.

Who’s it good for

Similarly to the above, this system is great for making sure you don’t lose track of the tasks you still have to do, but lets you prioritise urgent tasks more easily.

Disadvantages

You’d have to use some type of software to update your lists and review them regularly to make sure you don’t miss deadlines.

The 10 minute rule(s)

There are actually two versions of the “10 minute rule” for productivity, and both can be useful.

The first says that when you have a task to do and you are procrastinating, you only need to commit to doing 10 minutes of the task. After that 10 minutes you can stop if you wish.

This works because 10 minutes is usually long enough to get into the zone and realise that the task is not that bad, so you’ll probably just carry on.

The second rule says that, when you have an abundance of tasks to complete and feel overwhelmed, you should break each task down so that it takes no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

This makes each task easier to complete psychologically, as it feels as though it will require less energy.

Who’s it good for

If you already have a system in place for how you like to organise or prioritise tasks but just want some quick hacks for when you are feeling your productivity drop off, then these are great for you.

Disadvantages

Neither of these is an all-out solution to productivity, and you may find that they don’t help at times when you fail to notice yourself getting distracted.

The action method

Originally developed by Behance, the action method emphasises completing tasks.

It proposes that you leave every meeting and interaction with a list of clear ‘action steps’; clear ‘to do list’ style items that you can get to work on right away.

It proposes that these are separated from any other materials or references you need to actually complete the task.

Who’s it good for

If you constantly find yourself coming away from meeting with pages of notes and myriad desirable outcomes but without any easy to start jobs, this could work well for you.

Disadvantages

Once you have all the jobs listed out, this method provides no system on how to actually go about doing them.

We hope you’ve found some of these productivity techniques useful! We’d love to hear what’s worked well for you in the comments below!

Write a comment
[contact-form-7 id="23269" title="Free Day Pass"]