These time management techniques can boost your efficiency and shorten your to-do list.
THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
Create periods of intense focus and reduce procrastination
1. Choose a task that deserves your full attention.
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
3. Work on the task—uninterrupted—until the timer rings. Put a check mark on a piece of paper.
4. Take a five-minute break.
5. Set the timer for another 25 minutes, again putting a check mark on a piece of paper. Record how many intervals it takes you to complete certain tasks.
6. When you complete four intervals, take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes.
7. Repeat until you finish your task.
As the timer clicks away, I get to it. I can work on anything for 25 minutes.
– Jeannel King, owner, Big Picture Solutions
- Just start. Starting a task makes it easier to finish; our brains are wired to complete tasks.
- Forget perfection. Get things done. If you aim for perfection, most tasks will never be completed.
- Break up your tasks into chunks, and then work until you’ve completed one chunk.
- Buy a Promodoro timer to set reminders. The one on your phone will only tempt you into procrastination.
- Work in short bursts. You can do more in less time, if you’re focused and energized.
- Take a nap. Recommended nap time varies from 10-30 minutes. Pick a length that energizes you.
- Quit whining. “You don’t have to ‘feel like’ doing something in order to do it.” – Oliver Burkeman
EAT THAT FROG!
Complete your most challenging or unpleasant task first
1. Make a list of everything you need to accomplish.
2. Identify your frog (or frogs) and put them on the top of the list
3. In the morning, eat that frog!
I almost look forward to getting to the task so I can get it over with and move on. Plus, it gives me confidence to tackle anything else on my list that day.
– Jamie Novak, owner, Bite Size Living
- Wake up earlier. Studies suggest that many successful CEOs start their day before 6am.
- Finish your least favorite task first. This will encourage you to get to the stuff you enjoy doing.
- Eat a big breakfast. It’s proven to energize you and make you more productive throughout the day.
- Create a productive office space. Warmth and natural light make us happier and more productive.
GETTING THINGS DONE
Gather all tasks—big, small, personal, professional, immediate, long term—in one place
1. Capture all of your daily, monthly and big-picture tasks.
2. Clarify the tasks and make sure they’re actionable.
3. Organize them into categories.
4. Reflect on the task list repeatedly: every week, month or even day.
I plan out daily and weekly tasks the weekend before, and then the lists are augmented as the week progresses.
-Nanette Miner, president, The Training Doctor
- Delegate tasks when possible. Use the extra time to focus on larger goals.
- Plan out your week in advance. Adding some discipline in your routine will help prioritize what’s important.
- Take a vacation. For every 10-hours of vacation, performance improves by 8%.
- Practice meditation. Studies prove mindful meditation improves concentration & strengthens memory.
- Consider using offline tools. A whiteboard, a large notepad, or a sheet of printer paper.
THE ACTION METHOD
Organize to-do lists into the following buckets:
1. Action Steps: List specific tasks that are actionable items.
2. References: List any supplementary info/resources you need to get tasks done.
3. Back-burners: List Things that don’t need to be done immediately.
It has helped me beat deadlines much faster and has reduced the stress of missing important tasks or not getting them done on time.
— Thomas Fulmer, owner, Thomas Fulmer Company
- Go offline. The Internet, social media, and email are all productivity killers.
- Make some time for wasting time. Schedule your breaks so they don’t turn into lengthy procrastination.
- Have someone keep you accountable. The pressure may be enough to keep you firmly on track.
- “My single most effective trick for getting things done is to stop doing what I’m doing and get some sleep.” -Arianna Huffington
- Turn your to-do’s into physical appointments and scheduled events to keep your checklist short.
THE SEINFELD METHOD
Perfect your craft with practice and consistency.
1. Choose one or more specific tasks/goals that you want to improve.
2. On a calendar, mark off each day you complete the task.
3. Try not to break the chain!
The right process over time eventually gives you the right results.
– Ben Rosenfeld, comedian, BigBenComedy
- Apply some enthusiasm to your task. It’s how Jerry Seinfeld maintains momentum and keeps up his energy.
- Learn to say “no.” Creating a stricter daily schedule for yourself can help eliminate distractions.
- Turn important tasks into habits. The habitual routine will make the work feel comfortable.
- Be unavailable during your peak performance hours, so you can use your energy for big projects.
- Work where you feel most comfortable, but don’t feel confined to one place.