Depending on how you process information, a productivity system that works for others might not work for you. But finding the productivity method best suited to your needs goes a long way in helping you better manage your day and increase your productivity — especially while working from home. Here are five of the best methods for better productivity:
Eat frogs first
“If the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.” Mark Twain
Let’s get the nastiest sounding productivity method out of the way first. It’s almost exactly what it sounds like. This method is all about identifying the worst task on your agenda and then tackling it before anything else. This one is great for serial-procrastinators and has the added benefit of freeing up the rest of your day to work on things you’re feeling more positive about.
If you’re a visual thinker then Kanban might be the best productivity method for you. If you’re familiar with Agile project development then you’ll probably recognise it. Kanban has three primary parts: the board, the bucket and card. The board is representative of the entire project, whilst the buckets are labeled in accordance with the different parts of that project (e.g research, started, work in progress, completed, overdue). Each task goes on a card and is moved in accordance with which stage that task is.
In a Kanban the task usually moves across the board from the left to the right, which makes Kanban a great way to see your roadblocks and monitor your progress. They’re great not just for visual thinkers, but also for people who enjoy something with a tactile experience. Kanban is great for both team projects and personal use; it’s so easy to use and a great way to visualise information. It’s a great feeling as you move post-its from WIP to completed.
Don’t break the chain
Not everybody is looking for the “new” thing and you shouldn’t have to spend money on fancy apps or gadgets for better productivity. ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ is a really simple and neat way to track a single goal over time. To start, pick one goal or habit you want to improve upon and mark an X on the calendar everyday that you work towards achieving that goal. After a week you’ll have one row of X’s. Two weeks, 2 rows of X’s and so on. This method is great for those who like to visualise things and don’t like losing. The moment you miss a day you’ll knock yourself which is the point of this method, the best part is you’re only accountable to yourself.
The Pomodoro Technique
‘Pomodoro’ is the Italian word for tomato. The technique’s inventor Francesco Cirillo named it for the kitchen timer he used that was in the shape of a tomato. You start by deciding the single task that you want to work on and set a timer for 25 minutes. During this time focus on nothing but that one task. Don’t look at your phone or check your emails. Nothing but the task matters.
At the end of 25 minutes you’ve completed your first ‘pomodoro’ and can take a 5 minute break. Then you start the timer again. You repeat that four times; that’s four pomodoros and then you can have a longer break (between 20-30 mins).
What’s important is that you honour the system of one task per pomodoro. That’s because the pomodoro technique is designed not just to get you focused but to get you into a “flow” state. Think of flow as the state of being when you’re so engrossed in a book you don’t notice someone calling your name or you lose track of time. Flow is full-immersion and full-focus on whatever activity you’re performing.
The more you focus on just one task, the better chance you have of slipping into flow. Stopping halfway through a task to grab a coffee or text a friend is disruptive to the process. If that’s something you’re guilty of, the pomodoro technique might be the perfect for you.
Get things done
This one is a twist on the traditional to-do list, where you might sort your tasks by priority. In this technique however, you contextualise your to-do’s under general headings or themes. The method was originally created by David Allen who wrote a whole book on the subject. There are a couple of basic steps to this system but it’s great because it’s simple to tailor it to your specific needs.
- Capture – First, write down everything on your to-do list in any order. Finer details don’t matter at this step, you just want to take the disorganised thoughts in your head and put them to paper.
- Clarify – take a look at all your tasks and add detail to those that need it. Bigger projects might for example might need to be broken down into smaller tasks.
- Sort – Once you’ve clarified which tasks you need to do, you can sort them by the things they have in common. This could be categories (e.g home, work, school) or actions (e.g do, get, call).
- Reflect – Look over the list daily and at the beginning and end of the week. If there are any tasks now irrelevant, you can cross that off too!
- Start – Go for it and start crossing things off that list!
Now that you’re aware of five methods for better productivity why not try one out or look for more? Remember that everyone works differently, so don’t feel bad if a particular method doesn’t work for you. Once you find the one that suits your style you’ll be more productive in no time. You can find some more tips to increase your productivity while working from home here.