6 productivity & time management techniques
Regardless of where we work, we’re all looking to work as productively as possible (or how much longer it is until 5:00pm ;)).
We all want to work as productively as possible on what matters the most, we’re going to look at some of the popular techniques of time management and work prioritisation.
Let’s take a look.
1. Pomodoro technique
First of we have the Pomodoro technique, developed by Francesso Cirillio in the late 1980’s.
The idea behind this technique is that you breakdown your work day into small work and breaks intervals, known as pomodoros.
A pomodoro is made up of 25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break, after four Pomodoros (two hours), you take a longer break of 15–20 minutes.
This technique is named after the tomato (or pomodoro in Italian) shaped timer he used to measure the intervals.
Breaks down your work day into small, manageable intervals. Due to the short nature of the work intervals, it will be easier to wholly concentrate on the task during the time, than it would on longer intervals.
If a task takes more than 25 minutes to complete a task (such as writing this did), it can break the workflow and momentum when you have to stop and restart.
2. Getting things done (GTD)
Getting things done (or GTD for short), was developed by productivity consultant David Allen.
It’s based on you writing down what you need to accomplish into actionable work items, with big tasks being broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Because the tasks are recorded, it helps on focussing your attention on each task, rather than having to recall them, allowing to better manage your time.
It also helps reduce anxiety as you have a plan to work to, rather than being swamped with lots of tasks that needed to be attended to.
This better helps you to plan out your day, by having smaller, manageable tasks to complete and makes bigger tasks less daunting as they’re broken down into smaller tasks.
There may be some tasks that are difficult to break down, which can then leave you with a large, daunting task to tackle.
3. 168 hours
Laura Vaderkam created this technique, by looking at the amount of hours there are in a week and breaking down your to do list based on this time.
It’s based around cutting down on misused time that comes from misplaced priorities, as you’re working to a pre-planned schedule.
Helps plan the whole week in advance, getting you to think ahead and prioritising what needs to be done for the week, rather than on a day by day basis.
Planning out a whole week may be difficult, some tasks may be difficult to estimate the time needed to complete.
If something taking longer than expected it can throw off the rest of the weeks plans for completion. Doing this might not leave a lot of room for on the fly jobs that come up.
4. Seinfeld technique
Yes, that’s right, from famous comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, this technique works on a basis that we don’t like to break our continued streams of success.
Seinfeld’s technique for writing better jokes was to write everyday, to motivate himself to do this was to have a calendar where for each day he wrote a joke, he’d would mark that day off as successfully having written a joke.
After a few weeks, he’d start to have a streak that he now didn’t want to break, we can apply the same technique to work to be more productive and motivate ourselves to continue our ongoing success.
Can be quite motivating to have a continues streak, that you don’t want to break and if you use a calendar to physically mark off successful tasks or days, a visual representation of our success.
It may be difficult to get started, breaking a streak of 3 will seem like a lot less of a deal than breaking a 64 streak of completions. It might not work for everyone as, as you’ll need to have a certain mindset to care about this.
5. Important-urgent matrix
You might remember something like this from school, it’s a simple 2x2 matrix, split up into important and not important on one axis, with urgent and non urgent on the other.
Tasks are then set into one of the four areas depending on it’s importance and urgency, allowing us to see what we need to prioritise in terms of work.
This helps us break down tasks by priority and urgency, letting us concentrate on what’s important and urgent first, getting to the other tasks after.
May not work well for team wide tasks, what might be low priority and urgency for one, could be higher on the priority list for someone else. Is also fairly black and white in terms of the split, may be difficult to categorise a task that ‘might’ important depending on other tasks.
6. Eat the frog
Created by Brian Tracy and derived from the Mark Twain saying;
“Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
This means that if you get the most difficult and important tasks done first, to then make the rest of your day easier.
It also means you’re not procrastinating them for later in the day as you’re taking them on first, as a priority.
Prioritise the most important and difficult tasks, so you take care of the most essential first. Helps give you a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. Let’s you concentrate on the most important when you’re most productive. Once done, makes the rest of the day feel easier.
Similar to the important-urgent martix, if you concentrate on your most important task first, leaving the other for later, you might not get your lower priority tasks done, that could hold up a high priority task for someone else.
No one technique is going to work for everyone, each person will need to test and see which one works best for them, even combining some of the techniques listed above such Urgent-important Matrix with the Pomodoro technique for prioritised regular work, break intervals where you’ve prioritised your tasks ahead of time.
Or maybe the playing the long game with GTD and Seinfeld technique, plan your day if smaller tasks from GTD and for each day you finish them all, you mark a day off on the calendar for all tasks done, creating a streak of successful days.
Or maybe, you just take the most useful elements from each and build your own time management technique, whatever help you be more productive 😀