We all have those busy days, when tasks pile up into a skyscraper of things to do, but if things are piling up regularly, it’s probably time to come up with a new approach to getting the job done. The goal is to waste less time, while doing more. These apps and techniques effectively boost productivity and, I must admit it, are so exciting to follow.
This is the easiest technique to implement into your daily routine. Instead of trying to ‘eat an elephant’ in one go, the Pomodoro technique encourages you to break work down into achievable slices that are, figuratively, easier to chew.
The idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on doing only one specific task – no distractions from urgent mails and no Facebook updates (unless that is your current task). When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break.
It can be hard to stay focused for the whole day, but you’ll be surprised how much can be done in 25 minutes. This popular time management method was invented by Francesco Cirillo and named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used when he was a student (‘pomodoro’ is Italian for ‘tomato’).
It comes as no surprise that one of the most efficient scheduling systems in the world was created in Japan! In the late 1940s Taiichi Ohno, an engineer at Toyota, developed Kanban to improve manufacturing performance. Translated from Japanese as ‘visual signal’ or ‘card’, Kanban is nothing more than sticky notes on a whiteboard.
Divide the board into three parts: To Do, Doing and Done. Allocate different coloured sticky notes to the types of work you have to do, e.g. yellow for reports, green for clients and blue for meetings. Place new tasks on the board each Monday and review them on Friday.
The key principle of Kanban is to limit the number of each colour on the board, which means you can’t add new client notes until all the previous ones are successfully relocated to the ‘Done’ column. This is the perfect way to stop procrastinating on those nasty tasks you prefer to postpone until the very last second. Depending on your workflow, you would have three-five tasks for each colour.
Trello is the 21stCentury online reincarnation of Kanban. It’s a website and app that allows you to create general boards of any type, and to add and edit smaller tasks in each of them. Start with ‘Things to do today’, ‘This week’ and ‘Sometime’, and begin prioritising. The beauty of Trello is being able to organise the boards in your own personal convenient way. It may be days of the week with daily schedules that you want to break into smaller tasks, or global things like ‘Annual report’ and ‘Business trip to NYC’, or maybe you prefer to allocate each board to a client you’re currently managing. Play with your Trello and get organised.
P.S. I certainly don’t mind a ‘Holiday’ board in mine every now and then!
Don’t Break The Chain
The idea behind this method is to make some actions habitual … let’s say, you fail to answer emails on time. Well, start today and after replying to all your messages, tick off the day with a big red cross on your calendar. Do the same thing the next day. And then the next day. See, you already have three beautiful crosses, symbolising your consistency. Now go for it and Don’t Break The Chain! Starting with one habit, you can later incorporate new ones – how about a big blue cross for a report each Friday? Because chains can also be weekly, fortnightly and monthly.
Orrange New Tab
If you’re using Google Chrome, this will be your new best friend. Install it for free, connect it to Gmail, Google Calendar, Todoist, Wunderlist, Trello, Asana, GitHub, Pocket and other apps and websites you’re using to see all your tasks, meetings and deadlines on one dashboard. No more extra clicks! You can also add new goals and notes to this epic to-do list manually.
The Stoplight Method
Let’s admit it, most productivity tools focus so much on planning and scheduling that you feel exhausted way before achieving the goal! Though The Stoplight Method requires a bit of planning, it’s the one that will actually make you cross off the tasks.
Prepare three lists: ‘Red’ for urgent tasks, ‘Yellow’ for the ones you need to complete within two-three days, ‘Green’ for the rest. Now forget the last two and focus on the red list! Only move to the yellow one once every task in the red list is complete. Quickly shift tasks from yellow to red or from green to yellow every morning; utilise Excel or Word for that –it saves so much time!
The 10-Minute Rule
A lifesaver for avid procrastinators! It’s not exactly a technique, more of a way to finally get yourself into doing something useful. If you find yourself procrastinating for quite a while already, think of any task you need to do and commit to doing it for 10 minutes. You can stop then if you want. Not too scary, right? The secret is that 10 minutes is usually enough to get ‘into the zone’. Most probably you’ll realise the task isn’t as bad as it seemed and you are happy to continue. Or, you can always take a deserved break and repeat!