Personal Kanban

Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Visual, Tactile

Perfect for people who: Have a tendency to start a lot of projects but finish very few of them.

What it does: Helps you visualize progress on all of your projects.


Using whatever medium you prefer (sticky notes or a whiteboard work well), split your projects into three categories: To Do, Doing, and Done. That’s it.

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Eating Live Frogs: Do the Worst Thing First

Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Tend to put off important items, resulting in missed deadlines or rushed work.

What it does: Helps to avoid procrastination while ensuring that you make progress on the right things.


To get started, schedule your daily tasks from hardest to easiest. You’ll get your most important, intimidating, anxiety-inducing tasks (aka your frog) done while your energy is high and your day will get progressively better. You’re likely to find the overall quality of your work improves too.

Must, Should, Want

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract, visual

Perfect for people who: Need to prioritize tasks, but tend to go for lists over graphs.

What it does: Prioritizes your tasks by urgency, ensures that you’re accomplishing the right things.


Write down everything you have to do and then identify each as a Must, a Should, or a Want.


Your Must tasks are non-negotiable. Pay rent” — that’s a Must if it’s the first of the month.


A Should is something you need to do, but it’s not dire that it be done today. Answering certain emails may be a Should.


A Want is something you’d like to do, but might not be practical or necessary at the moment.

The SMART Method

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Are in the early phases of a big project and need to strategize before jumping in.

What it does: Turns big, abstract ideas and goals into concrete, actionable plans.


Specific:

Meaning the What — what is this project and what, specifically, do you want to accomplish?


Measurable:

These are the individual tasks and steps that add up to a complete project.


Assignable:

Who is going to do which step?


Realistic:

You can’t overcome a problem until you understand it completely. Carefully consider the challenges ahead.


Timely:

Come up with reasonable deadlines for each measureable task

The Action Method

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Need to turn creative brainstorming into an actionable to-do list.

What it does: Tidies up the messier aspects of creative work.


It involves breaking down ideas into three key categories: Action Items, Backburner Items, and Reference Items.


Action Items are the steps you take to get the project done.


Backburner Items are the interesting ideas that don’t directly fit into your plan for this project.


Reference Items are the resources and information you’ll need to complete the project.

Time Blocking

Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Visual, abstract

Perfect for people who: Find small tasks and interruptions are taking over the whole day.

What it does: Holds you accountable to your daily plan by allocating specific periods of time for specific types of work.


To start timeboxing, just split up your day into blocks of time with specific tasks assigned to each one.


One approach is InboxZero for email. Dedicating specific chunks of time to reading and answering emails so that they don’t take over your day.


Another approach is Day Theming. Instead of switching between different types of work or areas of responsibility throughout the day, you dedicate each day of the week to a specific theme.

Biological Prime Time

Time commitment to get started: High

Type: Abstract, visual

Perfect for people who: Love data and self-experimentation and want to optimize their days for maximum productivity.

What it does: Tracks your biological rhythms to find the best times for different kinds of productivity.


The basic idea here is to track your energy, motivation and focus to get a sense of when, where, and how you’re the most productive.


To start, eliminate any factors that could mess with your energy — changes in caffeine intake is a big one, staying up late is another — then record what you’re accomplishing once an hour, every hour that you’re working for a few weeks straight.

Getting Things Done

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract, visual, tactile

Perfect for people who: Have a lot of loose ends rattling around in the brain and need a way organize it all.

What it does: Gets your thoughts, worries, and to-dos all out on paper (or into an app) and then helps you organize it all into small, bite size tasks that you can tackle immediately.


Capture — This is a brain dump. Just write down everything you have to do in any order with any wording.


Clarify — Pluck out the vague ideas and worries and break them down into specific tasks or steps.


Organize — Now that you have the tasks clarified, you need to prioritize them and attach due dates where you can


Reflect — Look over your to-do list on a daily and weekly basis. Are there any steps in your projects that are still too vague? Break them down further.


Engage — Attack that list. You’re ready to get stuff done.

Systemist

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract, visual, tactile

Perfect for people who: Feel overwhelmed with the number of things they need to do

What it does: Keeps track of everything you need to get done in the simplest way possible.


Take it everywhere. This system only works if you can review and add tasks no matter where you are.


Capture everything. Get in the habit of getting everything out of your head the moment you think of it.


Break it up into small tasks and make them actionable. Make sure every task on your list is a concrete action you can reasonably complete in an hour or less.


Prioritize. Start off accepting that you won’t get everything done.


Get to to-do list zero daily. You won’t get everything done, but you should still get to an empty to-do list at the end of the day.


Get consistent feedback. Review what you’ve accomplished on a regular basis.


Pomodoro/Sprints

Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Desperately need to get something done and have a tendency to get distracted.

What it does: Helps you maintain focus for longer by splitting your work into short bursts.


Pomodoro is the most popular variation, though there are many others. With Pomodoro you work for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break, and then repeat until you’ve completed four sprints, after which you take a longer break. It’s that simple.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Visual

Perfect for people who: Like graphs, have trouble seeing things in black-and-white, and would rather prioritize on a continuum than stuff tasks into a few categories.

What it does: Identifies which tasks are priorities and which are just distractions.


Allows you to prioritize in a delightfully visual way: an XY axis.


Take a piece of paper and draw a very large plus sign; the X axis (a.k.a. horizontal line) represents the level of urgency with the left side being the most urgent and the right side the least urgent. Your Y axis (vertical line) represents importance, with the lowest importance at the bottom, highest at the top.


You end up with four boxes: Urgent and Important, Less Urgent but still Important, Less Important but Urgent, and Less important and Less Urgent.

Agile Results

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Are goal-oriented and/or are tackling complex projects and need to keep to a timeline.

What it does: Focuses on outcomes and prioritization while keeping diligent watch over the scope of your projects and goals.


To start using Agile Results, simply identify three outcomes you want to see for the year, month, week, and day.


When setting your daily goals, you should make sure they align with your goals for the week. When you set your goals for the week, they should align with your goals for the month.


Same for monthly and yearly goals. At the end of each time period, look back and see how you did. What worked? What didn’t you finish and why? Adjust as needed.

The To-Done List and the To-Don’t List

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Spend too much time worrying about how much didn’t get done yesterday/have a lot of bad habits that prevent productivity.

What it does: Flips the traditional to-do list on its head in order to look at productivity in a new way.


To make a To-Done list, keep track of what you’ve accomplish throughout the day. Rather than focusing on all that’s left to do, keep your focus on your progress. Review your to-done list at the end of every day.


If you try this and it feels a little silly, stick it out for a day or two. You might find that you’ve accomplished a lot more than you thought — and research shows that progress (no matter how small) is a huge motivator.


You can also try the To-Don’t List.


It’s exactly what it sounds like. Make a list of activities and bad habits that you want to avoid and write them down. Then check them off as you manage to avoid each.

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