Becoming more organized and truly productive is something a lot of us are focusing on. It’s not that we’re goofing off every day, but often we find ourselves caught up in busy work that doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity. Add to that a distraction habit and you have a recipe for disaster. How often have you found yourself working on a project when an idea for something else forms, so you shift tasks to capture the idea and end up exploring that path instead? Next thing you know, you have a bunch of projects started but nothing completed. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point!
Pro Tip: When this happens, discipline yourself to jot the idea down so you don’t forget it, and then go back to the project you’re currently working on.
In order to become more productive (truly productive) and increase my energy levels, I’ve been experimenting with different time management and productivity techniques, and to date I’ve found a lot of success using the chunking method (some people refer to it as the batching method). You might have heard of variations of this method, one of those being the Pomodoro Technique, which I’ll discuss later in this post.
But first, let’s talk about the method of chunking our time and how to determine which tasks belong in each chunk.
To break it down, I know that:
- There are certain times of the day I’m more efficient at a specific task than another time of day. For instance, I’m better at admin tasks and research in the morning while I tend to do more writing in the later afternoon. Therefore, I’ll assign tasks to the appropriate chunks based on the ideal of time of day for the task at hand.
- I don’t assign a specific time limit to each chunk, rather I have 3-4 chunks in each day. Once I complete as much as I can within a chunk, I take an intentional break, then move on to the next chunk.
- I put the most time sensitive tasks first in each chunk to ensure they get completed. After that, I spend as much time as I can on the other tasks, then move on.
Pro Tip: For this to work, you’ll want to create a list of tasks that need to be completed each day and prioritize each item appropriately.
During each chunk, I don’t visit social media (unless of course scheduling posts is one of the assigned tasks for that specific chunk), and I try not to answer the phone unless it’s something time-sensitive or a call I’ve been anticipating (I do not turn my phone off or put it in another room - though this does work for some people). I do set aside assigned times for checking email at the beginning of each time-chunk to be sure I’m starting off with a clean slate, leaving no room to wonder if something needs my immediate attention. As Daniel Levitin wrote in The Organized Mind, “The awareness of an unread email sitting in your inbox can effectively reduce your IQ by 10 points.”
So as you can see, it’s an intentional method, but it’s not a fancy, super-strict, or difficult-to-manage method. The biggest hurdle has been breaking the distraction habit. I think a lot of us have gotten used to constant stimulation, and when things get a little boring or quiet, we tend to want to go for the quick fix with a visit to Facebook or a video on Youtube, etc. Next thing you know, we’re lost down the rabbit hole of distractions. I had to learn not to resort to a visit to social media or the internet in general when my mind got bored or things got too quiet, instead intentionally refocusing my attention to the important task in front of me. It’s not easy breaking a habit, and I still struggle with it daily, but the important thing is to stick with it. The longer you stick with it, the easier it becomes, and the more productive you’ll be.
In the past, I’d find myself in a perpetual state of shifting tasks. This not only resulted in mental fatigue and increased stress, but enabled procrastination. With the new method in place, I’m finding I get a lot more done and have much more energy throughout the day.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is similar to what I described above with a few differences. Here’s how it works:
1. Prioritize tasks then choose a task to focus on.
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and only work on that one task, no exceptions.
3. Completely immerse yourself in that one task until the timer goes off.
4. When the timer goes off, put a checkmark next to the task.
5. Take a break!
While this technique is a little different than what I do, the concept is the same and it has proven extremely successful for a lot of the people who’ve tried it. You can read more about it here.
No matter which system you choose, you’ll find many benefits when you manage your time intentionally, including increased productivity, increased energy, and increased creativity.
What are some productivity techniques you’ve tried? Leave a comment below - I’d love to hear from you!