The most effective productivity techniques
11 May 2020
From Pomodoro to Kaizen, these innovative productivity techniques from around the world have been proven to help get you back on track when it comes to getting things done at work, even at home.
Despite kicking off the workday with all the best intentions, it can often be difficult to find the elusive willpower to get everything done. Sometimes even all those productivity hacks - from an optimised diet and near-perfect office environment - can’t quite help you out of the slump!
For those times when productivity feels impossible but there’s a big deadline looming, why not try one of these tried-and-tested productivity techniques? From Pomodoro to Kaizen, these innovative methods from around the world have been proven to help get you back on track when it comes to being productive at work. We also look at ways to personalise these productivity techniques, so you’ve got everything you need to have your most productive day, week or year yet.
1. Go back to basics with the Pomodoro Productivity Technique
Established in the 1980s, the Pomodoro technique is one of the oldest and simplest productivity systems around, with millions of fans around the world. Much of its appeal lies in the simplicity, as it works by dividing your time into clear blocks while making the most of planning, tracking and recording, as well as helping to minimise the effect of distractions on workflow.
How does it work?
Start by making a to-do list, then picking the task you need to focus on most urgently. Set the timer for 25 minutes, and work away until the timer sounds. Record the completed 'pomodoro' with a check mark on a piece of paper, take a 3-5 minute active recovery break, and repeat until you’ve done four pomodoros. At this point, you can take a break of 15-30 minutes before returning to work. If you’re interrupted during those 25-minute sessions, make a note of the interruption to deal with later, or if possible ignore it until the timer sounds. While your Pomodoros can be tracked with apps such as Focus Keeper, you can also use a phone or egg timer. And remember to use your short breaks to properly refresh by getting a drink, stretching or taking a walk.
Personalise the Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro technique is easy to adapt, whether that’s by altering the length or changing the number of pomodoros to suit both the task and your concentration levels - this might involve 30-45 minute sessions repeated three times before a big break, for example. You could also set up a musical alarm if you find it less disruptive than a traditional alarm sound, and explore ways to make your breaks as refreshing as possible.
2. Try Japanese productivity techniques with the Kaizen Productivity Philosophy
In contrast to Pomodoro, the Kaizen technique is much more of a philosophical approach than a practical one. Translating roughly as ‘good change’, it involves improving the way you think, organise, plan and approach tasks over time to create a slow but extremely powerful transformation.
How does it work?
Kaizen is based on a number of fundamental principals, such as standardising processes to make them easier to repeat, evaluating progress using data, comparing results against your goals, and innovating new ways to improve results. You could start by listing all your weekly tasks to analyse where you waste both energy and time at the office, and finding ways to improve this, be that cutting down on meetings, working out what could be automated or delegated effectively, or getting into the habit of regularly reviewing how far you've progressed on your current goals and projects.
Personalise the Kaizen philosophy
As a philosophy rather than a strict technique, Kaizen is endlessly customisable! Apply the principles to your own workday, and you’ll soon see how they can improve your productivity and wellbeing.
3. Take the stress out of tasks with the Getting Things Done (GTD) Productivity Technique
Originally outlined in David Allen’s bestselling book, the Getting Things Done method offers a straightforward, stress-free way of organising your work. If you’re juggling lots of different responsibilities, projects and meetings, it’s a brilliant way to lay out and categorise all of your tasks into achievable actions with clear priorities, making that overwhelmed feeling a thing of the past.
How does it work?
The GTD technique is organised around five main principles: Capture (writing down everything, from tasks to brilliant ideas); Clarify (break tasks down into achievable steps); Organise (assign categories, priorities and due dates); Reflect (look through your organised list to choose the next key task); and Engage (choose an action, and get to work!).
Personalise the Getting Things Done technique
There are endless blogs, webinars, organisational apps such as Toodledo and the original book available if you really want to get to grips with the technique, but it also lends itself to personalisation, allowing you to use the tools you prefer and keeping the time available for tasks flexible.
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