3 Ways To Increase Your Productivity

productivity
PC: Koren Delos Santos

Nothing beats discipline and plain, old hard work. I have always been iffy about programs or techniques that claim you don’t have to put in effort to succeed. Granted, there are programs that might simplify the work involved, but not completely obliterate it. So, for this article, I am going to write about three ways to increase productivity to help you get things done and not fall prey to shady programs.

Productivity Hacks

The Pomodoro Technique

This simple time-management method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in 1980s. Fun fact: it was named after the pomodoro-shaped timer Cirillo used as a student. The idea behind this technique is the repeated, periodic breaks that help you focus.

How It Works
  1. Figure out which task you need to complete first. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s important or urgent enough to dedicate 25 minutes to.
  2. Set the timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the timer goes off. If you get distracted, write the distraction down and forget about it until the 25 minutes is over.
  4. When the timer goes off, mark it ( a check, an “X, etc.) on a piece of paper. This will bring a sense of accomplishment. Hooray for you! This counts as one pomodoro.
  5. Take a break for 3-5 minutes. Stand and loosen up, brew some coffee, eat an apple. I would recommend something that takes your mind off the task at hand.
  6. Once you’ve done 4 pomodoros, take a 15-30 minute break. I would suggest going for a walk just to clear your brain and get it ready for the next set. After your break, go back to Step 1. You can repeat this process until you’ve finished the task or a set of tasks.
Why  It Works
  1. It removes distractions. It makes you decide whether an interruption is important enough to distract you from your task thereby postponing its completion.
  2. You get to figure out and analyze how long it takes you to finish certain tasks. This helps you manage your time.
  3. It decreases procrastination. Having a deadline sort of forces you to get in the zone and get it done within the time limit.
  4. It increases motivation. Twenty five minutes is short, so you can get your head in the game 100% and execute.
Tools
  1. Timer, pencil, and paper OR
  2. These apps: Pomodairo, Focus Booster, Pomodone, TimeBox among many others.
My Experience

I’m going to be honest, I do have tedious, repetitive tasks on my to-do list that don’t excite me as much as working on Breaking Boundaries. For those, I use the pomodoro technique because all I have to do is stay focused for 25 minutes at a time and then break time. Yay! The good part is that this technique can help get you in the zone because it starts the creative and mental juices flowing. The bad part is that the breaks are long enough to halt the momentum. However, when you use this method for something you actually want to work on, the breaks give a quick recharge.

Further Reading
  1. Pomodoro Technique Illustrated: The Easy Way to Do More in Less Time (Pragmatic Life) by Staffan Noteberg
  2. The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo
Workstation Popcorn

This hack was popularized and refined by Joel Runyon. The basic premise is that it helps lessen “fake work”– the kind of work that just makes it seem like we’re being productive, but we’re not getting much done, just like a hamster in a wheel.

How It Works
  1. Create a to-do list of things you need to get done by the end of the day. The only requirement is that it needs to be very specific. Think “I am going to study Chapters 1 and 2 today and do the study guide for Business 101” instead of “I’m going to study.”
  2. Break the list up into 3 equal sections. Keep in mind that you must group the tasks together equally in terms of how long each section will take. You can estimate if you don’t know how long a task will take.
    • Section 1
      • Task # 1: 1 hour
      • Task # 2: 45 minutes
      • Task # 3: 45 minutes
        • Total time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

       

    • Section 2
      • Task # 1: 1 hour
      • Task # 2: 30 minutes
      • Task # 3: 1 hour
        • Total time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

       

    • Section 3
      • Task # 1: 30 minutes
      • Task # 2: 45 minutes
      • Task # 3: 45 minutes
        • Total time: 2 hours

       

  3. Find three locations that have enough space to accommodate you, has good wifi, and some outlets. Somewhere with good coffee or tea (and pastries) is also a plus. 😀
  4. Execute. Café # 1 is for Section # 1, Café # 2 is for Section # 2, and Café # 3 is for Section # 3.
Why It Works
  1. You must pinpoint exactly what you need to get done. No vague intentions, just focused action.
  2. Unlike the Pomodoro Technique, this allows you to focus on tasks that need more than just 25 minutes of intense focus.
  3. It helps increase intentional effort. Since you know exactly what to do, you can just get right into it.
Tools
  1. Whatever it is you would need to complete your tasks and a way to get from one place to the next.
My Experience

Interesting enough, I’ve unknowingly done this hack when I needed to push myself to be more productive. I couldn’t do work at home for a period of time because there were just too many distractions. So, I headed to the Upper West Side area of NYC to go café hopping and get some work done. I swore by this to a friend of mine and told her how productive I am when I do this.  I just tend to focus more when I’m at a café. It could also just be being in an environment where people are doing their own thing. I did this every weekend for a good month and it definitely managed to kick-start my productivity level.

Further Reading
  1. Lifehacker’s article on Workstation Popcorn.
  2. Joel’s post.
Get Things Done

This method is by David Allen: a consultant, public speaker, and coach. This productivity hack focuses on control and perspective to help increase creative energy by boosting your confidence.

How It Works
  1. Write down what you need to get done–things from your to-do list, tasks, and projects. Jot down anything–including the personal stuff– that has your attention.
  2. Figure out if each task is actionable. If it’s not, remove it from your list. If it is, ask yourself what to do next and do that. Delegate, if you can and, if it’s a big project, you can break it down into sub-tasks.
  3. Systemize and prioritize. Add the items to a category: people to e-mail, clients to call, etc.
  4. Review your list frequently. Decide what you need to do next and then refine and update your  list.
  5. Just do it. Execute.
Why It Works
  1. It helps you stay organized. De-cluttering your brain frees it up for more brainpower used towards getting things done.
  2. It reduces the feeling of overwhelm. When you have a clear grasp of  what you can and can’t act on, you tend to focus on changing the things you can actually change.
  3. By reviewing your list often, it helps you stay on track and helps you carry out appropriate actions.
Tools
  1. Pen and paper. You can use a voice recorder, if you prefer, for initially capturing your thoughts. I would recommend transferring it onto paper after.
My Experience

This hack took me a long time to put together. My job, my family, this website, church duties, and so many more tasks take up my time! So I had a long, comprehensive list of things that needed to be completed. Since I have a pretty good handle on what I know I am or am not capable of, I’m not sure if this really helped me. Plus, I do not get overwhelmed easily. However, I do think this is great for those who need a very thorough method.

Further Reading
  1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
  2. David’s site.
Things To Watch Out For With These Methods

You have to find something that goes with your working style. Each method is great for different types of work, so you have to figure out which method would be best suited for which type of work. Be careful how you treat these methods; they won’t work without some semblance of discipline and the actual “doing”.

My Favorite Productivity Hack

Hands down: Workstation Popcorn. This is a hack that I’ve done before I knew it was actually a thing, so it was almost natural to my working style. Besides, who doesn’t love the opportunity to hop from café to café? 😉

So, how about you? Which hacks have you tried and which one has worked the best for you?

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!