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Productivity Systems

Read about the most popular productivity systems and choose the one that fits you best

Work No Longer Has Explicit Boundaries

Work No Longer Has Explicit Boundaries

In the last half of the 20th century, what "work" represented in the industrialized world was transformed from an assembly line, make-it and move-it kinds of activity to "knowledge work."

Back then, work was self-evident. Now there are no edges to most of our projects.

Basic Requirements for Managing Commitments

Managing commitments well requires the implementation of some basic activities and behaviors:

  • If it's on your mind, your mind isn't clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, that you know you'll come back to regularly and sort through.
  • You must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to fulfill it.
  • Once you've decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organized in a system you review regularly.

Why Things Are On Your Mind

  • You haven't clarified exactly what the intended outcome is.
  • You haven't decided what the very next physical action step is.
  • You haven't put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust.

Until those thoughts have been clarified and those decisions made, and the resulting data has been stored in a system that you absolutely know you will think about as often as you need to, your brain can't give up the job.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro is doing focused work in 25-minute sessions throughout the day.

After each session, take a five-minute break. After completing four consecutive Pomodoros, take a 20 to 30-minute break.

The Problem with Pomodoro

Pomodoro is excellent for tackling tasks you don't feel like doing or jobs that require little thought.

However, other tasks, like writing or coding, require uninterrupted time. The problem with the Pomodoro method is that the timer is a consistent interruption that prevents you from getting into a state of flow.

The Flowtime Technique

The Flowtime Technique

It is a modified Pomodoro. And it solves Pomodoro's big problems.

  • It works by writing down one task you intend to work on during a focus session.
  • Then work until you start feeling tired or distracted, write down the end time, and take a break. A break can be anything from 5 minutes to 15 minutes.

Because you're not tied to a timer, you're more likely to find yourself in a flow state from time to time.

Cal Newport, Author of Deep Work

"A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure."

CAL NEWPORT, AUTHOR OF DEEP WORK

Key Points

Key Points

The key to this method is prioritizing your task list in advance — a dedicated weekly review is a must. Take stock of what’s coming up for the week ahead and make a rough sketch of your time blocks for each day. At the end of every workday, review any tasks you didn’t finish — as well as any new tasks that have come in — and adjust your time blocks for the rest of the week accordingly.

Follow The Schedule

Follow The Schedule

With days that are time blocked in advance, you won’t have to constantly make choices about what to focus on. All you need to do is follow your time blocked schedule. If you get off-task or distracted, simply look at your schedule and get back to whichever task you blocked off time for.

Stop Procrastinating With the “2-Minute Rule”

Stop Procrastinating With the “2-Minute Rule”

The Rule states “When you start a new habit, it should take less than 2 minutes to do.”So break down your habits into tasks that can be accomplished within 2 minutes.

The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start. Making a task from a habit short makes it feel less like a challenge and it works as a “gateway habit” that leads you down a more productive path.

Why The 2-Minute Rule Works

The point is not to do one thing, but to master the habit of showing up. A habit must be established before it can be improved.

Mastering the art of showing up, the first 2 minutes become a ritual at the beginning of a larger routine. This is the ideal way to master a difficult skill. The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.

If the 2-Minute Rule Feels Forced To You

If the 2-Minute Rule Feels Forced To You

... try this: do something you want to make into a habit for 2 minutes and then stop. And keep repeating.

This reinforces the identity you want to build and, eventually, you will feel like it’s a waste of time to do only the two minutes and will invest more time on.

"Don’t break the chain"

"Don’t break the chain"

This is a productivity and motivation technique used and popularised by Jerry Seinfeld.

Each day you complete your task, you put an X in your calendar. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. The temptation to skip a day will be weaker because you'll enjoy seeing that chain form, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt.

Momentum vs friction

Not breaking the chain leads to momentum, the force that allows something to grow stronger or faster as time passes. But like everything else, momentum has an equal and opposite reaction.

Friction is the resistance caused when one object is moving at a different rate than another. Friction the enemy of momentum, the force that breaks the chain.

The compound effect

The compound effect

Sustained momentum toward a singular goal creates a compound effect.

This means that consistent, incremental changes can result in fundamental changes over time.

The Personal Kanban

The Personal Kanban

It's a system to save us from our endless to-do lists, which can turn any job into a lifeless chore.

It works on two principles:

  • Visualize your work.
  • Limit your total number of "works in progress."

Setting Up

  • Create three columns on a board where you can use magnets or post-it notes. Label the columns: Options, Doing, and Done.
  • Write your individual tasks down on separate cards. Post all of these cards in the "Options" column.
  • From that column, choose no more than three to move into the middle "Doing" column. This is your work in progress.
  • When a task is complete, move it into the "Done" column, and choose a new option to pull into "Doing."

The Zeigarnik effect

Starting but not completing too many projects puts people at risk of the Zeigarnik effect, which states that people are better at remembering unfinished tasks than completed ones.

Prioritize Your Time

Prioritize Your Time

We all have the same hours in the day, yet how we prioritize our time and energy will dictate our ability to execute tasks efficiently.

Working smarter is the ability to be productive and efficient when working toward your goals, rather than looking and feeling busy and out of time.

Use your headspace to work smarter, and not harder, using the following perspectives:

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your results will be generated from 20% of your focused efforts.

This was discovered when economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 20% of his garden peapods produced 80% of his peas. Translated into your own life, you could benefit from spending more time focusing on tasks that yield greater results , and less time on the things that don’t.

Next time you find yourself working late, ask yourself,Which 20% of my actions can contribute toward 80% of the end goal?

Rest and Recharge

Working when you’re overly stressed and tired does not make you more productive, nor should it be a badge of honor.

Try and establish a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up every day at the same time. If you can give yourself enough time between working and sleeping, you’ll have an easier time turning your brain off and relaxing without any screens.

Give yourself time to go on a walk, practice some deep breathing, and meditate.

Zen to Done (ZTD)

It's a productivity system that teaches how to take a simple approach to improving your productivity, by encouraging you to focus on forming one productivity-boosting habit at a time.

The Minimalist Habits of Zen to Done

The Minimalist Habits of Zen to Done

  • Collect: Get ideas and to-dos out of your brain and onto a list.
  • Process: Review your list daily and decide how to act on each item.
  • Plan: Pick a few high priority items to accomplish each week and every day.
  • Do: Schedule time to accomplish your selected to-dos without interruptions.

The Collect Habit

To clear your mind and improve focus, get your ideas and to-dos out of your mind and onto a list.

Documenting to-dos in the moment lessens the likelihood that you'll forget to do something and gives you a master list of to-dos to reference when you're trying to decide where to direct your time.

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