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5 simple techniques I use to stay productive

5 simple techniques I use to stay productive

04/05/22

1. Prioritise using the Eisenhower 

The Eisenhower Matrix is the most straightforward framework to write to-dos. However, I’ve tweaked it (slightly) for my way of working.

  • If a task is important AND urgent = I do it immediately.

  • If a task is important BUT NOT urgent = I schedule it on my calendar.

I apply one more layer before actioning on the above two — apply Pareto Principle (in the next point).

  • If a task is NOT important BUT urgent = I delegate it or do it myself if there’s no one to delegate it to.

  • If a task is NEITHER important NOR urgent = I keep it noted at the back of a notebook.

2. Prioritise even further with Pareto Principle

Pareto Principle states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. The ways I use it are:

  • Which 20% of my efforts (time) in the “Do” and “Schedule” will give me 80% of the outcome

  • Which 20% of the tasks in the “Do” and “Schedule” require 80% of my energy

Simply put, Eisenhower Matrix gives me a filtered checklist. Pareto Principle gives me an ordered priority list within that checklist.

3. Time-box tasks by energy required

For years I had time-boxed tasks on my calendar basis the tentative time the task would require. More often than not, I didn’t feel like doing the task when it was time.

I forgot where I picked the concept but adding a simple “Energy required” lens to all tasks changed the game.

  • Paying bills = Low energy task

  • Reading a meeting pre-read = Medium energy task

  • Recording a loom = Medium energy task

  • Writing a blog = High energy task

  • Writing content = High energy task

  • Designing a few screens = High energy task

  • Researching on a topic = High energy task

I started putting the tasks on my calendar when my energy would be high or low. I’d put high energy tasks either at the start of the day or late at night when my energy levels are higher.

Energy level against every task is a critical ingredient in my productivity recipe.

4. Execute with a visible Pomodoro timer

The 25-minute bursts are hugely beneficial to block time mentally. I often skip the 5-minute breaks if I’m in the zone. On a good day, I clock close to 3–4 productive hours of execution.

I typically use this to complete chunks of smaller tasks in one go or high-energy tasks requiring 2+ hours of deep work.

I use a physical dial kitchen timer (link here) or a Time Timer that I keep beside my laptop. At work, I use this beautiful app, Emphasis on iOS.

5. Capture with handy notebooks

My laptop/ monitor windows are just work applications — Figma, Browser, Slack, etc. Naturally, anything else — a to-do list, timers, etc.- is not in view and gets ignored heavily. This is why I never got to use the Reminder app, Notion checklist and such for tasks.

Instead, I use the humble physical notebook. I mainly use the Muji Passport Memo, which fits in every pocket and is always on me. I use it to make checklists, doodle, wireframe and make notes.

TL;DR

  • Eisenhower Matrix to create filtered task list

  • Pareto Principle to create ordered, prioritised checklist

  • Time-box by energy required for each task

  • Pomodoro Technique to do deep work

  • A portable physical notebook to capture all of above

Hope this helps.

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