A Beginner’s Guide to Productivity Methods
Sunday, January 8, 2023

A Beginner’s Guide to Productivity Methods

Do you sometimes feel that your day gets away from you and that you need help organizing our time?

It’s all too easy to rush from task to task, feeling increasingly overwhelmed and exhausted – a hive of activity with little real output and often not accomplishing what we set out to achieve. 

But let’s face it: our brains are easily distracted and, in an increasingly digitalized world, we are bombarded with more distractions than ever. It’s never been more difficult to focus and achieve what’s most important to us. 

We’d love to simply tune out the noise and get things done, but many of us don’t know how or where to begin. 

This is where productivity methods can help. 

Productivity methods are strategies, tactics, and methods used to increase efficiency and productivity, and streamline workflows to get more out of the time we have.

With dozens of methods to choose from, let’s save time and jump straight into a round-up of 11 of the most popular productivity frameworks.

The 11 Most Popular Productivity methods

1. Eat the Frog

Introduced by Bryan Tracy in 2001, Eat the Frog has a simple key tenet: start your day with your frog.

Your frog isn’t the garden variety, it’s your most challenging task. The one you’ve been dreading.  

The idea is that the sooner it’s done, the better you’ll feel. Not only that, but the rush of endorphins you experience after completing a difficult task fuels you with motivation to tackle the rest of the to-do list.

Easier said than done? Not really. 

Make eating a frog first thing in the morning a habit, and it quickly becomes a standard part of your workday.

Ease of Implementation 

Relatively simple, but you might need a mindset shift before eating the frog becomes habitual. Remind yourself that those tricky tasks have to be handled anyway, so why not do them when you’re fresh and capable?

2. Pomodoro Technique

A Pomodoro Timer

Pomodoro is an Italian tomato and a well-known time-management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. 

It involves working studiously in 25-minute intervals with five-minute breaks in between. Those intervals are called Pomodoros.

After you get through four or five of these, you can reward yourself with a longer, 20-minute Pomodoro to unwind or reflect on your work.

This method is excellent for focusing on one task at a time, as it helps keep distractions to a minimum. 

Knowing you’ll have the time to check your inbox or brew a cup of coffee just 25 minutes in the future helps many stay laser-focused on the assignment at hand.

The flip side is that while Pomodoro is a great individual time-management tool for many, some people find having to stop every 25 minutes actually decreases their productivity.

Ease of Implementation 

Very simple. Pomodoro timers can be found in the app stores, as browser extensions, and free online.

3. Time Blocking

Time Blocking Schedule Example

Time blocking is a productivity technique that involves grouping tasks into specific time slots.

For example, instead of trying to multitask, a time-blocker would divide the day into several blocks and assign a separate task to each.

Blocking can allow you to focus on one thing at a time and monitor your progress, ensuring you don't get distracted or overwhelmed by the sheer number of demands or deliverables.

One thing this method requires is discipline and forward planning. You’ll need to make a plan and then stick to it.

If this sounds too restrictive, introduce task-batching into this routine. For example, instead of having a single 15-minute slot to check emails, take three five-minute slots. Breaking up blocks means you won’t miss anything urgent.

Ease of Implementation 

It depends. Some people are natural planners, others have a more free-wheeling style. Plus, it must be said that laboriously planning a workday means valuable time planning work instead of actually doing it.

4. Zen to Done (ZTD)

Leo Babauta’s ZTD system is all about habits, and how developing these can lead to sustainable and reliable productivity.

There are four key habits:

  • Collect - Gather everything you need to do in one place, such as a notebook or an app
  • Process - Decide which tasks you can do now and what needs further planning
  • Plan - Prioritize your tasks based on their urgency and importance
  • Do - Allocate time and resources and complete your tasks

According to Leo Babuta, proponents should focus on one habit for 30 days, and then move on to the next. 

The idea is that mastering one habit makes it easier to adopt the next, and eventually fully master the system.

Ease of Implementation 

Some diligence is required, and also four months of your time. However, each habit is relatively simple.

5. The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix (also called the urgent-important matrix) is a productivity technique named for former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

‘Ike’ himself developed this handy technique which balances the dual demands of urgency and importance. It involves splitting your tasks into four categories: 

Einsenhower Matrix Example

This way, you can clearly see which tasks must be taken care of straight away, which can wait, and which ones you can delegate or temporarily ignore.

Ease of Implementation  

Very easy and there are no special tools required. Either mentally categorize or use a spreadsheet to organize tasks into categories if you prefer a visual.

6. KanBan

The KanBan method is an agile project management technique that uses visual cues to help people keep track of tasks.

Tasks are organized into columns according to their progress in the workflow. Each column has a different name. For example, ‘to-do’, ‘in progress’, ‘revise’ and so on.

As you move tasks from one column to another, you can easily visualize the project’s progress, and identify blockers and areas for improvement.

KanBan is particularly useful for larger projects involving multiple people and processes involved. It keeps everyone on the same page and allows for better communication and collaboration.

Ease of Implementation 

KanBan is very easy to implement and there are simple tools such as Trello that help you visualize a project’s progress. Invest in paid software for the full agile experience so you can track and evaluate your output across tasks.

7. Getting Things Done (GTD)

The GTD productivity method is most useful for people who juggle multiple demands or handle complex tasks.

It relies on five CORE principles:

  • Capture - Note everything on your plate
  • Clarify - Process what you've captured and understand its significance
  • Organize - Sort everything in its rightful place
  • Review - Revise everything you've done so far
  • Engage - Get to work.

While this may require quite a lot of work upfront, it's a very effective way of tracking your work, reflecting on past progress, and ensuring nothing is forgotten. 

It may also allow for better decision-making as all the information you need is readily available.

Ease of Implementation 

It depends. It can be remarkably easy to get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’ mode in the Cs, and not progress much further. 

8. Single Tasking

Single-tasking is simple: it’s the practice of focusing on one single thing at a time

The idea is that focusing on one task means you’re likely to complete it faster, and with greater accuracy. Once that task is ticked off, you can move on to the next single-task job.

As you can imagine, it doesn’t work so well when the single-tasking task can’t be completed without other tasks running concurrently. 

Ease of Implementation 

Very easy.

9. The SMART method

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

It's a method used to create concise and achievable objectives and goals. For example, instead of saying, "I need to write these job descriptions in a week" you could say "I will write five paragraphs each day until I finish."

Breaking things down into small chunks makes big tasks feel more manageable, and you can give yourself a little pat on the back for ticking off goals.

Ease of Implementation 

Relatively simple, but it’s never going to work for the ‘just get it done’ crowd, who would much rather knuckle down and finish their task in one or two attempts. 

10. Must, Should, Want

Focusing on the hierarchy of tasks is a great way to increase productivity. 

The Must, Should, Want method is about prioritizing tasks on your list and separating them according to significance.

Each task is a must-do, should-do, or want-to-do.

Classifying objectives in this way offers a solid overview of your responsibilities, goals, and plans. It can also help combat the dreaded burnout by making people aware that the ‘want’ jobs are just that: wants.

Ease of Implementation 

Very easy. It’s also a great way to manage conflicting home and work demands, making it ideal if your work and home life are enmeshed.

11. Don’t Break the Chain

Often attributed to the comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Don’t Break the Chain is designed to help you form long-term habits.

It works by tracking the progress of an attainable goal in a physical or digital calendar, marking each day you complete your task with an X. 

Over time, this creates a chain of consecutive X-marked days that motivates you to keep going.

The idea behind this method is that it's easier to maintain a habit than to create one.

By keeping track of your progress and not breaking the chain, you can stay consistent even on days when motivation is lacking.

Ease of Implementation 

It depends. Some of us are quite happy to create visual cues and use these as motivators, others are just as happy to note progress mentally.

Which Productivity Method is Best?

Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on what works best for you.

A particular strategy may work wonders for one person, and be significantly less effective for someone else. 

Take some time to explore and experiment with various methods until you identify those that work well for your work life and habits.

And, of course, there are useful elements in each productivity tool, method, and approach we’ve covered here. 

Why not adopt a hybrid approach and build your own productivity model? 

Luca Frantzmann
LinkedIn Profile

Productivity FAQs

What is the simple productivity method?

The to-do list is the most straightforward productivity method. The method is built on the straightforward premise that all jobs should be divided into manageable chunks and enumerated with varying degrees of importance.

Which is the most productive approach?

Ultimately, the answer for the most productive approach will rely on what suits you best as an individual. A particular approach could be highly successful for one individual but far less successful for another. Spend some time investigating and experimenting with different approaches until you find the most effective for your work habits and way of life.

How do you build productivity?

Make daily objectives and to-do lists to prioritize and assign your work successfully. Making a straightforward, goal-oriented strategy with distinct actions and results can help you remain on target and set yourself up for success. Also, consider using technology to help productivity rather than hinder it with productivity apps like Slack, Todoist, Evernote, and Dropbox.

What is the 3 3 3 method productivity?

The 3-3-3 method of productivity includes three hours a day to focus on an essential current project, three urgent but time-consuming duties, such as meetings, and three "maintenance" tasks, such as emails or micro-learning.

What are the most effective productivity methods?

Some of the most commonly used productivity methods include Personal Kanban; Eat the Frog; SMART Goals; The Action Method; Must, Should, Want; Time Blocking; Pomodoro; and The Eisenhower Matrix. Each productivity strategy won't work for everyone since no two people function the same.

How do I choose the right productivity method for me?

Finding a system that suits your work style, personality, motivators, and routines can require trial and error. The following three factors should be taken into account while selecting a productivity strategy for yourself: ● Personality: Understanding your natural capacity to concentrate is the first step in choosing the best method. ● Environment: Choosing the best productivity strategy can be aided by being aware of the advantages and difficulties presented by your environment. ● Function: In general, there are two main categories of function: managers who lead and organize these coworkers and independent contributors who directly contribute to the product. Choose the function that best describes you to find your greatest productivity strategy.

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