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Five Best Productivity Methods

When it’s time to buckle down and get some serious work done, we trust that you have a go-to productivity method or technique that functions best for your workflow. At Lifehacker, we talk a lot about the different techniques you can use to spend more time doing, and less time organising or thinking about doing. So this week we’re going to take a look at five of your favourite productivity techniques, based on reader nominations.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique was created by Francesco Cirillo back in the early 90s as a way to harness the power of focused work and frequent breaks to be more productive. We’ve discussed the method and some tools to help you stick to it, but honestly all you need to get started is a simple timer and a little discipline. There are no expensive seminars, downloads or books you have to buy, or classes you have to take. For that reason, it’s incredibly popular, especially among developers and designers, and people who have large projects that require them to sit down and produce some kind of work over the course of their workday. The method is simple: Get your timer and set it for 25 minutes. Start the timer, and start working. Focus on your work, and don’t stop for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, stop working and take a short (5 minutes) break. That’s one “pomodoro”. Repeat the process, and every four pomodoros, take a longer (15-30 minutes) break to recharge. You’ll feel rested and recharged, and you’re encouraged to focus on your work in short, sustained bursts.

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done (GTD) is the invention of David Allen, author of the book Getting Things Done. This productivity method has earned such a massive following that there are blogs, to-do apps, classes, seminars and an entire side-industry around how to get started and how to apply it to your day-to-day routine. The methodology doesn’t require you use a tool, although there are lots of them available. The real thrust of GTD is to encourage you to embrace some method to get your tasks and ideas out of your head and organised as quickly as possible so they’re easy to manage and see. GTD also suggests you organise to-dos in order of priority and time required to accomplish them: things that can be done quickly should be done sooner, and large projects should be broken out into things that can be done quickly. There’s much more to it, and it can be a little difficult to adopt, but once you start using GTD, you may never go back.

Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret/Don’t Break the Chain

Aside from being the preferred productivity method of our own Adam Dachis, the “Don’t Break the Chain” method is simple to implement and leverages our own human nature to keep us working on the things that are important to us and reaching for our goals. Embracing it is simple: pick something you want to start doing, do it, and then spend the same time every subsequent day doing that thing. Every day you do the thing you want to do, mark it down on a calendar. Over time, that series of marks on the calendar will serve as their own motivation, encouraging you to keep going, and keep doing that thing every day as long as you can. in essence, don’t break the chain. All you really need to get started is a calendar of some type and a marker. As you work, you’ll be able to easily see how we’ll you’re doing because you can look at the calendar, and as Adam notes in his post on the technique, you can easily plan for sick days, vacations, and still keep the rhythm going. No books to read, no software to install — just you, a calendar, and little red marks that keep you motivated better than any email alert or buzzing mobile device ever could.

The Action Method

The Action Method is actually a methodology and software by Behance. Most of you who voted for it also noted that you didn’t necessarily use the software, but you liked the productivity method’s emphasis on actually accomplishing tasks and finishing work instead of just organising your to-dos. The Action Method proposes that you leave every event, whether it’s a meeting or a brainstorming session, with a set of concrete tasks you can perform, called “action steps”. Each item is its own to-do, and they’re kept separate from “references”, or the materials you need to accomplish those items. Some dislike the Action Method because it crams all of your to-dos together and eliminates categories. Others note that this gives you a clear view of everything you have to do, all in bite-sized items you can work on any time. You can adapt any productivity tool to the Action Method, or use Behance’s Action Method webapp, iOS and Android apps, iPad apps, or even its paper “Action Journal” or “Action Runner” products, if you want help getting started.

A Hybrid/Custom Personal Method

Many of you noted that you combined the elements of multiple productivity methods to make your own. Whether you blended GTD and Pomodoro (which was an especially popular combination) or you used elements from Inbox Zero Kanban, or you had a favourite tool that you used in a unique way, it’s clear that a number of you took our advice to heart when we suggested you remix your own productivity method using the elements that are most applicable to your workflow and that you like the most from other techniques and methodologies. Many of you noted that you had a tool that really resonated with you, and even if the tool didn’t cater to a specific technique, you found a way to enter tasks or create your own categories so it would work the way you preferred. By their powers combined, you’re Captain Productivity!

Honourable mentions this week go out to Kanban, a method that encourages focus on what you have to do right now, what’s on your plate next, and what you’ve just completed, all organised into categories that are easy to switch among. Also worth mentioning is the 10 Minute Hack, which we mentioned earlier this week as a great way to get started and power through your pressing tasks and beat procrastination.

Did your favourite not get enough nominations to make the top five? Have something to say about one of the contenders that we missed? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

Title image by MimimalWall.com.