Long work hours and access to the latest technology don’t necessarily equate to job done. Sometimes, it feels impossible to complete that task list, stay focused, strategise effectively or meet deadlines. But there are productivity frameworks that help even the most overwhelmed worker increase efficiency and meaningful output – the trick is to find the right one. We break down the top productivity methods, so you can run your day, and not let the day run you.
Best for: Simple time management
If you’ve seen a whiteboard full of coloured Post-it notes in a grid formation you’ve probably witnessed Personal Kanban in action. This is a simple system with two “rules”: workers should be able to see their workload and should limit what tasks they have in progress, making these tasks feel achievable. Adhering to both these rules is often achieved by using a whiteboard with a column for To Do, a column for Doing and the last column for Done. Overloading on tasks becomes obvious quickly as there is only so much space for all those To Do Post-it notes.
Best for: Staying focused
Great for workers with a tendency to get distracted on tasks, this method focuses on working in bursts rather than marathons to keep energy levels high and output targeted. Some workers may prefer 25 minutes uber sprints on tasks and a five-minute break, others may opt for 90 minutes on a task and a 15 minute break, with the working day becoming a rotation of sprints and rest. Oh, and when sprinting, workers should be free of distractions and totally focused on the singular task at hand.
The Pomodoro Technique
Best for: Avoiding burn out
Setting a timer to 25 minutes, workers choose a task and hit it uninterrupted, with no distractions, until that buzz goes off. The Pomodoro Technique then asks you to put a visual mark on a sheet against that task before taking a short break (making a cup of tea is perfect). This cycle is repeated four times before a longer break can be taken, with that longer time-out helping the mind rest and reset. Basically, it’s like the Sprint method but this one sticks to the fast lane.
Best for: Building good work habits
This method makes no quick-fix promises and requires from the worker a simple commitment: complete a task each day and put an X on the calendar, watch those X’s build across the day, week, month or even year and whatever you do [ITALICS] don’t break the chain. Strangely, it’s also been dubbed The Seinfeld Method after US comedian Jerry Seinfeld, even though he says he has nothing to do with the simple system of crosses that build and reinforce, over time, efficient work habits.
Reminiscent of the tortoise and the hare fable, this productivity method asks workers to step back and (calmly) commit to five actions a day that will move them closer to completing their goal. If a major presentation is due, what five tasks will get them to the finishing line? They then must methodically complete their task list. The Rule of 5 suits workers who can feel overwhelmed with mounting tasks, enabling them to break major projects down into achievable pieces.
Best for: Making big projects a reality What a suitable acronym this is for a productivity framework all about effective goal setting. Most useful for more abstract ideas that need to be turned into actionable plans, S.M.A.R.T stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based. Workers ponder the goal and ask themselves the S.M.A.R.T questions, which will in turn give them a blueprint for goal completion.
Best for: Day-to-day organisation Perhaps one of the most debated productivity methods, Inbox Zero is largely misunderstood. Rather than being solely about maintaining an empty inbox, its core purpose is to free workers from the distraction and control of a constant barrage of emails. Inbox Zero is built on setting up rules to swiftly deal with emails – delete, delegate, respond, defer – and instituting timeframes when email is ignored entirely. It’s a simple theory: limiting the distraction of emails keeps you on task and productive.
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