Inefficient time management makes people miss deadlines and paves the way for inefficiency and mediocre results in the workplace.
It also makes us wonder – “what do successful people do differently”?
The answer is that they manage time more efficiently than the rest of us.
Time is limited for everyone, but successful people make the most of it by maximizing their productivity through better time management. While this comes naturally to some people, it can be developed into a habit by everyone with some proven productivity methods.
The productivity of any person depends majorly on the ability to complete a particular task efficiently.
But can you equate mere efficiency in a task to productivity?
Real productivity is when a person is able to complete the tasks efficiently on a regular basis. And to achieve that, real leaders focus more on their energy than on their time.
If you want to derive maximum productivity from your day, then it is crucial to decide what task needs to be done at what time.
For instance, walking into a meeting in the morning where you need to crunch numbers is a good idea. With a fresh mind and body, you can easily use your analytical and critical skills to work efficiently.
Now just imagine you are walking into the same meeting in the evening completely exhausted.
Would it work? No!
Hence prioritizing your work in advance can help you achieve more efficient results.
Just like the example mentioned above, business leaders follow several smart hacks to maximize productivity through efficient time management.
Let us talk about the six productivity methods that can help you deliver more in the same amount of time.
- Getting Things Done (GTD)
- Pomodoro Method
- Don’t Break The Chain
- Do The Worst Thing
- Eisenhower Matrix
- MIT (Most Important Tasks)
Let’s get started!
1. Getting Things Done (GTD)
Following the GTD approach can help you achieve more than just “getting things done.”
It’s a process that allows you to efficiently organize and track tasks on a regular basis.
The whole idea of GTD is to reduce stress caused by unfinished/pending tasks and help focus solely on the task in hand to derive greater productivity.
Redefine your priorities and how you approach your work and life on a day to day basis.
David Allen first talked about this productivity method in his book in 2001. Ever since then, GTD has become a popular method to reduce clutter and become more focussed.
How To Get Started With GTD?
Allen calls tasks with an unclear outcome as “open loops,” “stuff,” or “incompletes.”
These unfinished tasks are considered sources of stress that are annoying, and keep our minds always stressed — whether consciously or subconsciously.
Here is how you can leverage GTD to boost your productivity on a regular basis:
- Pick the most irritating and distracting task and define it as “incomplete”.
- Start working on it and jot down the task description in a sentence and the method you need to follow for its completion. Describe what “doing the task” means.
- Once it is done, write down the approach used in the completion of the task. What does it mean for a task to be “complete”?
- After the process is complete, do a self-assessment to analyze the emotions experienced after the successful completion of the above-mentioned processes.
The entire process is capable of reducing stress and enhancing productivity by creating reminders about the tasks with no other trustworthy system but your mind.
Following this practice will allow you to complete the current task without any distraction or stress from piled up work.
The GTD method also expects people to have the following things:
- Filing system to store referral material
Here’s the Getting Things Done workflow chart:
Actionable Tips For Getting Things Done (GTD) method
Here are some of the actionable tips to help you get started with the GTD method right away.
- Make a record of everything – Use a collection tool to capture and make a record of everything that interests you. It is an ongoing process that will help you build a rich collection of various things that interests you.
- Immediately take the next step – Now, decide the next project or action right away. However, if you are unable to do so, then either make a decision about its importance, otherwise just trash it or put it on hold.
- Make reminders – Add reminders of your categorized work at appropriate locations where you can easily find them without any major effort.
- Keep a check on your tasks – Make sure to review and update all your tasks within the system to focus on the right things and have total control over your work.
- Approach the process with confidence – Trust the system that you have created with the above-mentioned points and approach the tasks with confidence.
Who is GTD for?
Getting things done or GTD is an excellent productivity method that can help procrastinators or indecisive people who find it challenging to start the task.
GTD can help you organize, prioritize, and focus more on things in hand.
2. Pomodoro Productivity Method
The Pomodoro technique can encourage you to work efficiently while following the deadline.
The time management system can help you fight inefficiency by breaking the day into small pieces of time and taking one small time period as a work goal.
How To Get Started With The Pomodoro Technique?
With the Pomodoro method, you have to divide your daily tasks into 25 minutes each portion, separated by five minutes between each interval.
These 25-minute intervals are called Pomodoros. And after following about four such pomodoros, you will be working for two hours straight, so you can take a longer break of around 20 minutes to relax more.
Keep in mind that the 25-minute interval is just tradition and that you can choose the duration of your Pomodoros depending on your preferences.
The whole point behind this method is that the timer incites a sense of urgency instead of making you feel like you have an ample amount of time or an entire day to complete the task, which leads to unnecessary procrastination, distraction, laziness, and other inefficiencies.
When you have just 25 minutes at a time, you can progress faster in your work as your subconscious mind will not allow wasting time on trivial things.
It also helps in preventing the exhausted feeling that you might get after constantly working for 1-2 hours at a stretch.
It is a human tendency to check out the time repeatedly after small intervals, and having to work for long hours can make you feel drained. Pomodoro can help you stay fresh and more productive by taking continuous short breaks.
Actionable Tips for Pomodoro Method:
Make sure to go through these actionable tips to follow the Pomodoro method more efficiently:
- Prioritize the tasks – Decide the right task that needs to be done based on priority
- Set the timer – Set the Pomodoro timer of your choice. Traditionally, it is 25 minutes.
- Start right away – Start working on the task immediately for 25 minutes.
- Create a checkmark – Stop working once the timer starts ringing.
- Take appropriate breaks – Take a break of 3-5 minutes and resume working on the task after setting the Pomodoro again.
- A longer break – After 3-4 short breaks, take a longer break of 15-18 minutes and then start working again.
Some of the most fundamental points of the Pomodoro productivity technique include:
- Recording & Tracking
The planning phase involves developing a list of tasks to do that day, in other words, a to-do list.
Having a list, you should visualize and calculate the estimated amount of time required to complete the tasks during the day. Some tasks you might need to schedule for tomorrow.
When you track time spent working, and as the day passes while you work along your Pomodoros, you will feel a sense of productivity and progress throughout the day.
The end-goal of this technique is to reduce internal and external interruptions and be focused on the task at hand.
Who is the Pomodoro Method for?
This method will work wonders for anyone having issues with kickstarting the big task that will take a lot of time to complete. Or, for those who never take breaks and then burn out easily.
If you feel you have a mountain to cross, get the ball rolling for 25 minutes only with Pomodoro, and you will get that necessary mental push that will help you complete even the most time-intensive tasks.
3. Don’t Break The Chain
Don’t Break the Chain is a productivity method that is designed to encourage people to develop a habit and be consistent with their work.
Popularized by the comedian Jerry Seinfeld who decided to write one joke a day each day and not break the chain, it is also known as the “Seinfeld Strategy.”
How To Get Started With The “Don’t Break The Chain” Method?
“Don’t break the chain” productivity method can help you achieve long term goals more efficiently. The idea behind this technique is to work every single day on your goal—slowly and steadily.
Whether you want to write 100 words each day, or want to send three cold sales emails a day, this method will help you make that a habit.
The continuous process makes the goals more achievable and eliminates procrastination.
Use a habit making app or print out a calendar and put a big X on each day you complete your habit.
After doing this for several days, you will find the chain of cross marks on your calendar, and that will motivate you further not to break the chain and make it even longer, as it did for Jerry.
The main purpose of this idea is to keep you motivated as you see progress. The concept may sound simple, but it is a very efficient technique to build a habit that will enable you to work regularly on your long term goal.
Actionable Tips To Help You Implement The “Don’t Break The Chain” Productivity Method
Follow these actionable tips to leverage “don’t break the chain” method more efficiently.
- One thing at a time – It is quite tempting to work on multiple goals at the same time. And this might even work for some people. However, for the majority, it is a counterproductive strategy. Hence, it is a better idea to focus solely on one goal for a foreseeable period of time.
- Identify the purpose of your goal – Before picking a goal, you should also know the purpose of the goal and why you want to achieve it. Write down the reason on a calendar or a piece of paper that why you want to do it every single day.
- Set incentives – Make sure to set rewards for yourself. People who expect to get an incentive for a particular task tend to take it more seriously. For instance, you can treat yourself with a weekend trip or something trivial you always wanted to have after reaching a milestone or goal. No matter how small or big the reward is – it is crucial to have one.
- The minimum time you can devote to this task – Set a minimum amount of time that you can devote to the goal on a regular basis, like 30 minutes a day, or one hour. Pick a comfortable duration that you can easily devote without any hindrance.
- Give yourself a break – Set some boundaries. For instance, when you are sick or on vacation, you can mark the reason on the calendar.
Who Is “Don’t Break the Chain” For?
Don’t break the chain method is most suitable for people who start working on a goal very enthusiastically but lose interest very soon.
This method will keep you motivated, consistent, and focused on your long term goals more efficiently.
4. Do the Worst Thing First (Eat the Frog)
Having to do tasks that you don’t like is most likely the world’s largest aggravation. And this is no exaggeration either!
And this is where the “eat the frog” technique comes into the game.
Planning and prioritizing your daily tasks is a huge challenge that consumes a lot of time. Even then, we tend to lose deadlines and deliver mediocre work due to several inefficiencies.
Brian Tracy’s famous “eat-a-frog” technique can help you solve this problem.
The method suggests doing the most unwanted or daunting task of the day first. For instance, if you need to send a long, delicate email to the client, do it in the morning and get it over with.
This will help you avoid all the unnecessary stress and pressure that you would have carried through the day just knowing you have to do that task later.
How To Get Started With The “Eat The Frog” Method?
Follow these tips to get the most out of “eat the frog” method:
Categorize your tasks of the day in this manner:
- Tasks that you don’t want to do but need to do.
- Task you really want to do, but there is no need to do them right now.
- Things you don’t want to do, and actually, there isn’t even any need to do them.
- Things you want to do, and there indeed is a need to do them.
Now that you have segregated your tasks for the day under the above-mentioned categories you can easily pick the Frog.
Pick the task that you don’t want to do, but have no other choice since it needs to be done.
Finish it off first!
It will help you shrug off the weight of stress and anxiety caused due to the task you hate to do.
You will get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that transfers onto the following tasks and increases your overall productivity for the day.
Here’s a flowchart that breaks down the entire process briefly:
- A = Frog. Important task. To be eaten soon.
- B = Should do. Mild consequences.
- C = No consequences if not done.
- D = Delegate.
- E = Eliminate.
Here, some people might argue that they perform better under stress.
And this can be true! Some people do perform better when they are under stress—they are actually active procrastinators.
They tend to postpone work on purpose and are absolutely in control of their time, and don’t worry much about missing the deadline.
But this is not the case with everyone. Hence, this logic holds no water in practicality.
Actionable Tips To Get Started With The The “Eat The Frog” Method
Eat the frog productivity method is for the inevitable tasks that need to be done one way or another.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I need to do this today? Is it time-sensitive?
- Can I delegate this task?
- Is this a high-value activity?
- What are the consequences of not doing this task?
- What is the result of doing it today?
If the task is not high value and doesn’t need to be completed today, then deliberately put it off for the next day and focus on the things that really matter.
Who Is “Doing The Worst Thing First” For?
The “Eat the Frog” method works really well for people who tend to say no to hard tasks and regret that later.
It is a great way to become a master of prioritization and go through hard tasks without too much thinking and avoiding future stress.
5. Eisenhower Matrix: Urgent Vs. Important Tasks
You might have heard of Dwight D. Eisenhower – the 34th President of the USA.
Eisenhower was a five-star general in the United States Army and later went on to become the 34th President of the USA.
He was especially popular for having the ability to stay productive for a very long period of time.
So much so that to gauge this special ability, his method for time management and productivity has been studied by several people from all over the world.
His most famous productivity technique came to be known as the Eisenhower Matrix.
It is a simple decision-making method that helps you organize your day more efficiently.
How To Get Started With The “Eisenhower Matrix” Method?
The Eisenhower Matrix method leverages a decision matrix to categorize tasks and make critical decisions in a more simplified manner.
Here is how you need to divide your tasks:
- Important and urgent tasks that need to be done instantly.
- Important tasks that are not urgent. It means you can schedule them for later.
- Urgent tasks that are not important. It means you can delegate these tasks to someone else.
- Neither important nor urgent tasks that you need to eliminate from your schedule.
You can leverage this task matrix for broader productivity as well as smaller productivity plans.
Moreover, it does the work of scheduling as well and helps you prioritize and schedule your day according to task importance.
To get started, have a look at this Eisenhower Decision Matrix:
Actionable Tips To Get Started With The Eisenhower Matrix Method
To efficiently leverage the Eisenhower matrix method, you need to understand the difference between important and urgent.
Urgent Tasks: Urgent tasks are things for which you feel compelled to execute as soon as possible. For instance, a paying client having issues with money transfer to you waiting for a reply is urgent.
Important Tasks: Important tasks are those that contribute to your long term goals. Some things can be postponed for the afternoon or the day after, but cannot be forgotten. Those are your important tasks.
Here are other points you can consider to decide whether the task is urgent, important or both:
- Is the task helping you realize your long term goal?
- Is it obstructing your current workflow?
- Can another person do it or not? Decide the dependency of the task.
- How interested you are in doing the task.
Proper consideration of the above-mentioned points will help you find out the real difference between urgent and important.
Once you know the difference between the two, then it would become really easy to prioritize your work and become more productive than ever before.
Who Is The Eisenhower Matrix For?
The Eisenhower Matrix method is a boon for people who have difficulty prioritizing their work and don’t know where to start.
Through this productivity technique, people can easily manage their workflow while staying both efficient and stress-free.
6. MIT (Most Important Tasks) Method
Most Important Tasks or the MIT method is perfect for those who have trouble distinguishing their most important tasks from something less meaningful—similar to the Eisenhower Matrix
The MIT method aims to help people execute critical tasks of the day efficiently.
This method suggests to prioritize the most important tasks of the day, earmark time for them, and complete those tasks on a priority basis.
How To Get Started With the MIT Method?
MIT method involves tracking the number of tasks you have and prioritizing them.
Here’s a step by step process to implement the method:
- Create a new task log (to-do list) every day
- Divide MIT tasks and less important tasks in two different sections
- Earmark time for MIT tasks and prioritize them to complete at the earliest
- Start less important tasks only after completing your MIT tasks
When you do that for a week, your to-do list might look like this:
Actionable tips for implementing the MIT (Most Important Tasks) method
Apart from enabling you to execute the most important tasks, the MIT method also gives you a wonderful opportunity to analyze your own performance.
Here are some essential tips:
Make your MIT list – Making a list of MITs at the start of the day helps you plan the day better. It will also make you more focused and help you approach the goal more calmly.
This means that no matter how many ad-hoc tasks you can get through the day, you always have an MIT list to come back to ensure your focus is not lost.
You can also recalibrate your MIT list if something more important comes up in the day.
Review your work at the end of the day – Easily review your log at the end of every day to analyze how your performance was throughout the day.
After seeing all the completed tasks, you will also get a sense of accomplishment, which would eventually boost your confidence. It will help you realize how steadily you are moving towards your long term goals.
Having a log will also help you prioritize your future days in a better manner.
Who Is The Mit Method For?
The MIT method is people who need assistance with task management and prioritization. It will not allow for important tasks to slip off the record.
This method will help you easily prioritize tasks and execute all the important tasks efficiently. It enhances productivity without compromising on ad-hoc works of the day.
Top Productivity Tips To Use With These Methods
Here are a few essential productivity tips that need to leverage along with these methods to get even more efficient results.
Focus On The Task At Hand
Keeping the focus on a single task will help you derive greater productivity from your time.
Multitasking will distract your focus and would lead to mediocre quality and error-prone results. It is always a better idea to prioritize the most important tasks of the day and complete them first.
It will help channelize your maximum focus and energy on important tasks to derive maximum efficiency.
Avoid Interruptions And Prioritize Deep Work
It would be safe to say that it is the age of distraction. From social media platforms to constant incoming emails, the chances are that you keep getting distracted by one thing or the other.
The key is to avoid all sorts of interruptions to the best of your abilities.
If you’re having a hard time concentrating at your desk, consider tricks like noise-canceling headphones, blocking your email for an hour or two and others. That way, you can dig into a task deep and be highly focused.
Understand the “Manager Vs. Maker” Work
Popular for funding top companies like Dropbox, Paul Graham first differentiated between the manager’s and maker’s schedule.
Manager’s schedule usually includes people in high positions like executives and bosses. Their schedule is usually broken up into plenty shorter tasks like meetings, calls, or emails. They are jumping from thing to thing.
On the other hand, makers are people who get things done in a company, like coders, writers, and more. A task of merely an hour won’t cut it for them!
They need to set longer hours for tasks, at least for half a day straight, to get things done. Also, they need more deep work, undisturbed time to focus on their task.
Getting Started Is The Key To Success
The best way to do something is to simply begin. Commit yourself to the goals and move towards them slowly but steadily.
Take small steps every day and try not to skip or cheat. You might feel tempted to delay your work and leave it for later but think of the repercussions it would have.
Once you envision the negative impact of procrastination, you might feel inclined to get started with the work right away.
Make Small Milestones By Breaking A Big Task Into Smaller Ones
If you get a gigantic task to complete, then instead of panicking, plan its execution. Break the big task into small milestones and set a timeline for each milestone. The Pomodoro technique is a ready-made method for this.
Work according to the schedule and avoid poor scheduling to reach each milestone with more efficiency in a shorter period of time.
The basic crux of each method is efficient time management that would help you channel your energy in a better way.
All the productivity methods are capable of enhancing your efficiency, but it would be good if you start with one productivity method instead of trying to leverage all the methods at once.
Once you are used to one method and can see positive results coming out of it, then you can try other methods to find out which one works the best for you.
There is no rule that says you have to stick to only one method. Several successful people leverage the best of these methods to devise a productivity technique of their own.
However, that takes time. You will also get there but after a lot of practice and experience.
The key here is to find the right productivity method that works for you now.