My 7 Favorite Productivity Methods in One Efficient List

My 7 Favorite Productivity Methods in One Efficient List

A good productivity method can mean the difference between a disorganized, unfulfilling day and one during which you get a lot done and feel great about it. That tradeoff is why so many of these methods, techniques, and hacks exist.

That said, not every productivity method will work for every person. To find the one that works best for you, take a look through this guide to seven of my favorites. Try one that sounds like a strong match for how you think and work (or try to avoid work).

The “Action Method” of productivity

This method is one of my favorites for keeping on task when I’m juggling multiple projects. It calls on you to organize your tasks into three categories: Action steps, references, and back-burners. Once you’ve done that, you put it all into a spreadsheet with those three categories as the column headers. You slot tasks into each column alongside notes, supplemental material, and whatever else you need—and move them around as they change their designations, as what is a back-burner today might be an action step tomorrow. Organizing it all this way helps you keep on top of the most pressing needs. Here’s a full explanation of how to employ the Action Method. (The “ABC” method is very similar, with “A” tasks being must-do and high-priority, “B” tasks being should-do activities, and “C” tasks being low-priority ones.)

The 3-3-3 productivity method

Using this technique, you aim to plan your day in threes: Spend your first three hours engaging in deep work on your most important project, then complete three other urgent tasks that require less time, and then do three “maintenance” tasks, like answering emails or scheduling other work. This method works because you do your deep, focused work up-front, which gets you in the zone and gives you a sense of accomplishment, which makes tackling the stuff afterward easier.

Here’s a guide to planning your day in threes.

The “Eat the Frog” productivity method

Similar to 3-3-3, the “Eat the Frog” method invites you to tackle work on your biggest, scariest, wartiest task first thing in the morning. Whatever time-intensive task that has kept you up at night is, that’s what you should do first. After that, everything else should be easy. Some proponents argue you should “eat the frog” as soon as you wake up, but this method can work on any schedule as long as you commit to jumping into the hard thing early, enthusiastically, and without hesitation, thus freeing up the rest of your day for other work and lowering your overall stress level.

Here’s a guide to eating your first frog, so to speak.

The Kanban productivity method

Kanban is similar to the Action Method but requires you to label your tasks as to-do, doing, and done. It works best when managed in a spreadsheet or even on a big board with sticky notes, but you need the three columns so you can move whatever is completed into your “done” pile and anything that still needs doing into “to-do.” If you’re a visual person, this is going to be a game-changer, as it helps you easily see what needs to be done, and gives you some satisfaction when you see what you’ve already accomplished piling up under “done.”

Here’s a guide to implementing the Kanban productivity method.

The timeboxing productivity method

Another trick for the visually inclined and motivated, timeboxing requires you to schedule your entire day. Every activity, from answering emails, to working on a big project, to eating a snack, should go on your calendar. It’s much easier to use a digital calendar, like Google Calendar, for this, since so much of the average day is subject to change and it’s simpler to move things around there than in a physical planner, but try not to deviate from the schedule too much. The idea behind this method is that it allows you to plan to devote exactly as much time to each task as you need to complete it while still filling your entire day with activity.

Here’s a guide to getting started with timeboxing.

The Pomodoro productivity technique

This is an old standby that has withstood the test of time because it works so well: Work for 25 minutes on a task, take a short break of about five minutes, and work for 25 minutes again. Every time you complete four 25-minute cycles, take a longer break. This gets you into the groove of working hard in those 25-minute bursts, since you know a little reprieve is coming. The break recharges you and you get back at it, over and over again, until your job is complete. To maximize the benefits of Pomodoro, get a specialized timer so you don’t have to set alarms on your phone and can work without glancing at it and all its distracting apps.

Here’s a guide to getting started with the Pomodoro method.

The Results Planning Method (RPM)

This technique comes from famed motivational speaker Tony Robbins, who outlined it in his Time of Your Life program and designed it to be motivational, fast, and efficient. Not only does does the acronym stand for Rapid Planning Method, but it can also serve as a guide to what your day should look like: Results-oriented, purpose-driven, and built around a “massive action plan.”

Consistently—every morning or week—ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What do I want?
  2. What is my purpose?
  3. What do I need to do/What is my massive action plan?

By doing this, you connect more to your mission and get more energized about getting to work right away on the answer to the third question, rather than spending a bunch of time deliberating about what you should or shouldn’t be doing with your time.

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