"You can do anything, but not everything." ― David Allen, author of Getting Things Done
Finding productivity methods that work for you is a big deal. There are many productivity tips, tools, and hacks swirling around the internet each day. It can be overwhelming for anyone who's just beginning to intentionally create their own workflows and habits.
We've put together this simple guide on productivity systems to help you if you're one of those in a bind. A well-managed work-life balance is possible. Start here with our list of five productivity methods to design a productivity system that works just right for you.
What Are Productivity Systems?
The right productivity system for you is one that fits well with your work style, responsibilities, habits, and personality. It doesn't create more work for you and instead helps you do your best work in the most efficient manner.
Before we go further, let's clarify the difference between productivity methods and productivity systems.
Productivity methods (or productivity techniques) are established ways of managing efficiency, typically pioneered by well-known personalities like presidents, authors, and entrepreneurs. Some examples are Zen to Done (ZTD) by Leo Babauta and Don't Break the Chain, made famous by comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
On the other hand, a productivity system is a deliberate mix of productivity methods, guidelines, and processes to help you get things done without chaos, confusion, or procrastination. Productivity systems include the methodologies and time management tools you use to become more efficient.
Benefits of Productivity Systems
Intentionally designing your own productivity system brings many benefits, including:
- Better time management: Productivity systems enable better time management of your daily tasks, due dates, and long-term goals, which helps boost efficiency, output, and clarity of mind.
- Clear prioritization: Productivity systems help you capture, manage, and execute your most important tasks. Instead of working with a long list of tasks you'd like to do, you have a big-picture view to break big projects into action steps.
- Automation: Productivity systems can help you automate recurring tasks. By taking repetitive or mundane tasks off your plate, you have more time to dedicate to things that require your unique skills.
- Simplified project management: Productivity systems make project management less daunting. Depending on your work, you may have multiple projects running simultaneously. With the right system in place, you can focus on one task at a time without losing track of the progress and deadlines from other projects.
- Reusable templates: Want to spend less time reinventing the wheel? Productivity systems help you create and organize reusable templates. For example, if you send investor update reports at the end of every month, you can create and save a template right in the description field of your calendar app so it's easily retrievable when you need it.
- Personalization: Unlike one-size-fits-all productivity methods, productivity systems are made to suit your personality and adapt to your daily workflows. This helps you improve work performance and do your best every day.
- Easy adaptability: Productivity systems are not fixed. You can adjust and improve your productivity system as your lifestyle and needs change. What works well when you work from home may not work when you're back in the office or traveling.
Top 5 Productivity Methods to Create Your Productivity System
Now, we get to our list of the top five productivity methods to adapt and create your productivity system. Mix and match these methods for optimal productivity and task management.
1. The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix, created by former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower, is a productivity method that helps you prioritize. If you have several things vying for your attention and not enough time to do them all, this matrix helps you determine the specific tasks to do first.
The Eisenhower Matrix distinguishes between what is important and what is urgent. Use this technique whenever you're undecided about what to focus on. After determining which tasks are most important, schedule them in order of priority. Here's how the matrix works for the different levels of work to be done:
- Important, urgent tasks: Do them as quickly as possible
- Important, not urgent tasks: Schedule them
- Not important, urgent tasks: Delegate or handle them at a less busy time
- Not important, not urgent tasks: Ignore or delete them from your task list
2. Eat the Frog
The Eat the Frog productivity technique encourages you to do your big tasks first. This entails listing all your action items, picking the biggest and most distasteful task, and doing that first to get it off your plate and out of your mind.
Eat the Frog is an excellent technique for people who struggle with procrastination and those who find themselves busy all the time yet making no real progress. This technique is easy to implement every day. All you have to do is tackle your most difficult task first thing in the morning.
You can use the Eat the Frog method to overcome procrastination in both your personal or professional life. If you're someone who hates going to the dentist but is due for an appointment soon, schedule it for the morning. This way, once you wake up, you get ready to head to the dentist and have it over and done with, so you can focus on other things for the rest of the day.
3. Time Blocking
A to-do list tells you what to do, but time blocking tells you when to do it. The time blocking method often involves task batching and timeboxing. This simply means batching similar tasks into dedicated blocks of time to reduce context-switching and multitasking.
Time blocking encourages single-tasking, which helps improve focus, efficiency, and overall productivity. When your task list is broken into time blocks for the entire day, you have more control over how your workday goes instead of being driven by distractions and other people's priorities.
Use this technique to break big projects into small tasks you can complete over a dedicated period of time. At the end of each day, review how you worked compared to what you planned. Notice and adjust any deviations. It's best to allow a little slack time around each time block for flexibility to handle unplanned responsibilities.
The Pomodoro technique, created by Francesco Cirillo, is a time management technique that also manages energy levels and focus. It typically goes like this: 25 minutes of intense work on the task at hand and then a five-minute break to rest or attend to smaller tasks. You repeat this four times and then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
Pomodoro is an excellent add-on to time blocking, especially for people with short attention spans. You're more likely to work harder and complete a task when you know there's a break around the corner.
Use this technique if you're easily distracted or inundated with requests during the workday. With Pomodoro, you're able to tackle deep work while keeping up with your other responsibilities like email and social media notifications. Below is an example of how a working writer may use the Pomodoro technique:
- Write for 25 minutes
- Make some tea and check Twitter for five minutes
- Write for 25 minutes
- Stand up and stretch for five minutes
- Write for 25 minutes
- Close her eyes and meditate for five minutes
- Write for 25 minutes
- Get a 15-30 break to do whatever she likes
5. Don't Break the Chain
Don't Break the Chain is a productivity method for maintaining consistency and motivation with long-term goals, like learning a new skill or building a new habit.
The technique enforces completing a session of your specified task every day. You mark an X each day you complete the task on your calendar to make an ongoing chain. This helps you maintain consistency and progress with your goal by not breaking the chain.
Don't Break the Chain can be challenging to maintain. If you need just a little bit of flexibility, try the Never Miss Twice technique created by productivity expert James Clear. With Never Miss Twice, the plan is to ensure you never miss completing your task two days in a row. This helps you keep up motivation and consistency with a bit of freedom.
Building Your Productivity System
There you have it — our list of the top five adaptable productivity methods to create your own productivity system. Choose the best productivity methods to improve your system depending on your productivity gaps. For example, if you struggle with maintaining focus, you'd benefit from a mix of the Eisenhower Matrix, Time Blocking, and Pomodoro.
Remember, the point is to create a system that helps you get things done at the right time. Take a look at how you do things now and note what you need to improve.
Are you ready to up your productivity with a system that serves your needs? Start by tracking and measuring how you currently spend your time with our smart time tracking tool. Knowing what you spend most of your time on will help you create the best productivity system for you. Begin with a two-week free trial of Rize today.