As someone who enjoys the practice of taking the New Year to review, reflect and restart, combined with my ongoing desire to increase efficiency while working less, I have taken some time this year to read up on productivity. From The 4-Hour Work Week to Getting Things Done to The ABD Survival Guide to A Life of Productivity blog, there is a plethora of productivity advice out there.
The challenge, however, is always: how long do I take to learn about productivity so that I can actually BE PRODUCTIVE?
I’ve put together this blog post to summarize the 6 Favourite Productivity Tips I’ve encountered. Enjoy!
- Identify High Leverage Tasks – Deemed by many as their most valuable productivity tip, high leverage tasks are based on the Pareto Principle i.e. 80% of your value comes from 20% of your actions. Refer to this article for how to identify your three highest leverage tasks, and then allocate the majority of your time to them.
- Pomodoro Technique (n mins work, 3-5 mins break) — The Pomodoro technique involves structuring work to break time into n minutes vs. 3-5 minute breaks, and repeat this cycle until completed or until a break is required. You need a timer — I use the focus booster app. The standard time ratio is 25 minutes work to 5 minutes break. I prefer the 45 minute recommendation — 45 minutes work and 5 minutes break, for three rounds with a longer break at the end. Another suggestion, from researchers at University of Toronto is to do 52 mins and 17 min breaks.
- Download a To-Do list app and LIST LIST LIST! — As mentioned here, remove the “mental clutter” that withholds you from being able to focus. Using an app, preferably one that syncs with the cloud and works across all platforms like Wunderlist (my personal favourite), create separate categories for the to-do’s that fill your mind as you’re trying to work, jot them down and keep going. Taking this time can either reveal important tasks you would otherwise have not thought of, or create the mental space to focus on the important task at hand.
- Create Effective To-Do lists — drawing from this article, among other tidbits I’ve come across, here are a few tips for good to-do lists:
- Create a “Waiting For” list to track all the tasks you’re currently waiting on e.g. delivery to arrive, return from a voice mail, etc.
- Review your lists regularly, only keep to-do’s that you will complete
- If you can complete a task in two minutes don’t add it, just do it
- In your tasks to complete for the day, never have more than 3 to-dos identified at once
- Write your to-do’s so they are actionable and with detail e.g. “Look into insurance” versus “Contact Sunlife Insurance – 1888 888 888”
- Manage your email don’t let it manage you — here are a few tips and tricks from here
- Turn off notifications — I use the Do Not Disturb feature (System Preferences > Notifications) on the Mac to turn off all notifications from 8am to 8pm to avoid distraction
- Schedule times to check email
- Keep emails to 5 sentences
- Use Unroll.me with your email account to bundle all your subscriptions into one daily email
- Gamify tackling the inbox with The Email Game which opens your inbox, displaying a timer at the head of each email for you to handle it. You get points for how quick you are.
- Minimize distraction using the 20 second rule – as described here “make it easier to be productive than to procrastinate” by placing obstacles that take 20 seconds or more to overcome in between things that may distract you. E.g. Place your cell phone in another room, unplug your router to disconnect from the internet