6 Techniques to Increase Your Productivity
Six time-tested techniques to reduce distractions and finish your todo list
No matter what’s on your todo list, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless amount of work you have to do. It can be hard to stay focused on finishing todo list items, especially in today’s always busy world.
Whether you procrastinate, fall victim to distractions, or straight up forget things, these techniques can help you stay focused and accomplish more each day.
All About Productivity Techniques
A productivity technique is a method or process that helps you stay focused and accomplish more throughout your day. It’s always nice to have a framework or plan to determine what’s most important, what will take the longest, and reduce the risk of burnout.
Productivity techniques can help make your time more effective so you don’t waste any of your precious time, energy, or resources.
8 Techniques to increase productivity
Ready to up your productivity today? Try out a one or a few of these techniques and see how much you’ll be able to accomplish.
The Pomodoro technique is one of the most popular techniques to break up your day into manageable segments. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian, and it was created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.
The core idea of Pomodoro is getting tasks done in predetermined block of times. Traditionally, tasks are broken up into 25-minute periods, called Pomodoro's, with 5 minute breaks in between. After 4 Pomodoro’s (or 2 hours), take a 30 minute break.
During each Pomodoro, the goal is to stay totally focused on completing work, this means putting your phone and distractions aside. When using this technique, I’ve found it helpful to only use my phone during 30 minute breaks to reduce distractions, and use the 5 minute breaks to either read a little, meditate, or get in a set of pushups.
If it feels like you’re constantly being taken out of the Flow Zone by small tasks or interruptions, time blocking can help you stay focused on tasks that matter.
This technique involves breaking up your schedule into set, predetermined, and time-controlled blocks. By allocating time for each task on your schedule, it becomes easier to visualize how much work you really have to do.
Time blocking also holds you accountable to your daily plan and completing all the items you have to do today by assigning chunks of time to complete it and reduces efficiency loss caused by task switching, allowing you to truly get into the flow zone while working on things.
For example, here’s the time-blocked schedule that allocates 30 minute chunks to different tasks throughout the day.
Task batching is a technique where you group together low-value tasks together and complete them in back-to-back sprints.
While it’s easy to get distracted by different tasks, task batching is all about avoiding context switching by building a centered workflow with high momentum that limits distractions.
The objective here is to avoid having to switch between different projects or types of tasks by grouping together todo items by project, and cranking them out all in a row.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
An extremely popular productivity technique is the Getting Things Done (GTD) technique. There’s classes, seminars, apps, and blogs completely centered around this practice because it’s been proven to be so effective.
Created by David Allen, the objective of this method is to get all the ideas and projects you have out of your head and into a document or list so you can easily visualize and manage them all at once.
This method recommends listing the to-dos in order of priority and a time estimate for each one. For example, a task like washing the dishes is small and can be done sooner, larger projects like building a website can be broken down into smaller subtasks that can be completed quickly.
There are five main pillars of this approach:
- Capture everything, from your ideas to you todos
- Clarify the things you have to do with as much detail as possible
- Organize your todo list based on category and priority
- Reflect on your todo list to see what your next action item is, and give it an in-depth review periodically to check progress
- Engage and get to work
With this technique, you’ll feel more organized and clear on what you have to do.
The Eisenhower Matrix, also called the URgent-Important Matrix, helps you decide and prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Created by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, this technique is proven to help you sort through and organize a large number of tasks so you can complete the most important ones first.
With this method, you visualize your tasks on an XY axis with 4 boxes. On the Y axis is the importance of tasks, and the X axis is the urgency or time sensitivity of tasks. See the diagram below:
Organize all your tasks into one of four boxes based on deadlines and priority. Afterwards, you’ll have a leaner and more clearly defined todo list for the day.
The Burner List
The Burner List is a to-do list that centers around staying focused on tasks that truly matter, while ruthlessly eliminating the rest. There are two main columns in the Burner List, the “Front Burner”, which also has a space beneath it called the “Counter Space”. Then the “Back Burner”, which has a space beneath called the “Kitchen Sink”.
The Front Burner is the current top priority project and tasks. You can only have one item on the burner. The Counter Space is for smaller tasks that come up as you do work. The Back Burner is the second highest priority project on your todo list, and it only gets half the amount of space. Finally, the Kitchen sink is the miscellaneous tasks that don’t fit anywhere else.
This isn’t a finite list, it’s meant to be disposable and recreated every few days to re-evaluate what’s on the front burner and back-burner.
With these six techniques to more effectively manage your time, you’ll be able to accomplish more, stay better focused on what matters, and reduce distractions.
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There’s a lot of content out there and I appreciate you reading mine. I’m an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley in the MET program, a software developer at Playground, and a young entrepreneur. I write about software development, startups, and failure (something I’m quite adept at).