Procrastination is a big productivity killer. Planning the day as per tried and tested management methods is a way to train oneself to be more efficient.
As the old adage says, the mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. Its natural state is one of wandering, unless made to forcibly concentrate on a specific task that needs to be done.
Anyone reading this knows the feeling you get when you start working or studying and instead encounter a plethora of distractions staring right at you. That one video on the open tab is begging to be clicked, making you negotiate with yourself… after all, it’s just a harmless 5-minute clip. Your bad judgment inevitably gets the better of you and you find yourself down a YouTube rabbit hole 2 hours later. Or perhaps you give in to an innocent scroll on Twitter because you “have to know what’s happening in the world” and before you know it, the day has disappeared.
It’s amazing to feel productive and know with confidence that you have gotten a lot done in your day. Here are some techniques you can use to work more efficiently and structure your day for maximum productivity.
One of the most famous time management techniques was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique suggests 25-minute chunks of work time with 5 minutes breaks in between. Pomodoro is named after the Italian word for tomato, as the timer has that shape.
Many people swear by this technique to achieve better efficiency, as it gives clear time guides for each activity. The method is as follows:
- Choose a task you would like to get done.
- Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings.
- When the Pomodoro rings, put a checkmark on the paper.
- Take a short break – 5 minutes to 7 minutes.
- After every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break – 20 minutes to 30 minutes.
This task can be done with a formal pomodoro timer or any available alarm on your phone. There are also free dedicated websites that feature this technique available online. Planning and documenting is critical in this technique. It takes the guesswork out of the day and following the process makes sure that you maintain a balance between work and breaks.
The Eisenhower Matrix
This technique stems from a quote by American President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
The technique requires an analysis of the nature of tasks and their subsequent classification into 4 quadrants.
- The first quadrant is Do First, for the most important tasks that need to be finished that day. These tasks are the most important and are completed as your first priority.
- The second quadrant is Schedule, for those tasks that are important, but less urgent. They act as reminders to be completed as soon as the first quadrant gets done.
- The third quadrant is Delegate, for those tasks that are urgent, but not important. These tasks should be delegated to others so they get completed, but you don’t have to waste your time doing them.
- The fourth quadrant is Don’t Do, for the tasks that are neither urgent nor important. Make sure you don’t waste time on these tasks. This will help in identifying where you may spend unnecessary time, the elimination of which will make your day more productive.
This method can be used not only for your daily planning, but also for longer timelines, making it a good guide for career planning.
GTD – Getting Things Done
This method was popularized by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done. GTD’s core is to move planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them into actionable work items, which leaves space for only the work that needs to be done.
The method is as follows:
- Capture – Record 100% of things that catch your attention. This could be things you want to get done; places you want to reach in your career, etc.
- Clarify – For everything you record, decide whether it is actionable – can it be achieved? If it is doable, take action on it. If not, throw it away.
- Organize – Break the task down into actionable steps. Categorize it into the bigger scheme of things, and put it where it belongs.
- Reflect – Frequently revisit and revise your list. Determine where and how you can do things in a better way.
- Execute – Use your system to execute on the actionable steps that you have identified. Do the Work!
POSEC is an acronym for “Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing”. This is similar to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”. It is one of the most famous time management methods, as it not only promotes personal efficiency, but also includes social and communal responsibilities.
The Method is:
- P – Prioritize — Your time and define your life by goals.
- O – Organize — Things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful.
- S – Streamline — Things you may not like to do, but must do.
- E – Economize — Things you should do or may even like to do, but are not pressingly urgent.
- C – Contribute —By paying attention to the few remaining things that make a difference.
Don’t Break the Chain
This method was made popular by comedian Jerry Seinfeld. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to form a habit. It is a good way to hone a craft if you’re a creative professional.
The idea is simple:
- Decide the activity that you want to get good at—a skill you want to master.
- Hang a Calendar.
- Make crosses for each day you do the task.
This method not only makes you sit and do the tasks daily, but the X’s give you motivation and determination to not break the chain. This would result in a snowball effect, as little by little, you will compound your skills.
All the methods outlined above get results only when you sit down and work on them. These methods follow a common theme—know your goal, break it down into pieces, categorize them in terms of priority and just do the work. Reflect on the things you have done and identify what you can do in a better way next time.
You can use a mix of these techniques and develop a method that is customized perfectly for you. A structured working routine gives the much-needed framework for creative and entrepreneurial enterprises. So plan hard and work hard if you want to reach those lofty goals!
- Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
- Rai technology University
- Francesco Cirillo
- Getting Things Done
- Getting Things Done – book
- The Pomodoro Technique – book
- The Eisenhower Method – book