We all suffer from an ever-increasing to-do list, juggling multiple projects and losing sight of tasks that matter. Everyone aspires to be productive and manage their time as efficiently as possible. Productivity is extremely personal, hence, there is no one-size-fits all approach. Over the years, people have experimented with different frameworks depending upon what works best for their professional goals, personal lifestyle, and work culture.
In this article we have put together four different frameworks of productivity that you can adopt:
1. Eat The Frog First
2. The Eisenhower Matrix
3. The Pomodoro Technique
4. 1-3-5 Technique
Let’s dive into each of these productivity frameworks in more detail.
Eat The Frog First
This technique is inspired from Mark Twain’s famous quote – “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.”
If you have multiple tasks that need to be accomplished in a day, start your day by completing the most important and often the most difficult (focus and energy intensive) task. Productivity consultant Brian Tracy says - “our “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it”. Checking this task off your list, first thing in the morning, will give you a concrete win and accompanying endorphin boost to carry you into the rest of your day.
- Decide your frog. This task is usually important but often not urgent. This task involves high energy and focus and hence, there is also a lot of mental resistance and procrastination involved
- Pick something you'll be able to complete in 2-3 hours. Your frog should take half a day’s work at the most. It should be clearly defined and should be SMART
- Break the task down into smaller steps if needed. If your frog is going to take more than half a day, break it down into smaller steps that will take 2-3 hours or less
The Eisenhower Matrix
Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general during World War II, 34th president of the United States and extremely productive. The secret to his success – Understand the difference between urgent and important tasks.
We often spend our time on tasks that are extremely urgent and SEEM important in that moment but are really not. We end up utilizing our energy and focus on tasks that are not important and fail to prioritize tasks that matter. To help categorize tasks, Eisenhower built a simple decision matrix
- Urgent and important (do immediately)
- Important, but not urgent (schedule to do later)
- Urgent, but not important (delegate to someone else)
- Neither urgent nor important (eliminate)
For the visual folks –
Depending where each of your tasks fall on the matrix, you can then prioritize and plan your time.
The Pomodoro Technique
This technique is named after the pomodoro (tomato) kitchen timer and is a simple way to help you moving and getting your tasks done. The idea is to estimate how many pomodoros (usually 30 minutes time blocks) you need to complete a task, plan your day, set your timer for 25 minutes and focus on the task until the time is up - Take 5 min break. After completing four pomodoros, you should take a longer break.
- Protect your pomodoro from distractions. Make sure that you spend the full 25 minutes on your task. If people want things let them know you’ll get back to them after your pomodoro.
- Make sure you actually take a break in your breaks. No sneaky working.
- It’s flexible - iterate and improve. If you need longer or shorter times or did not estimate the task effort correctly, that’s OK. It’s about helping you focus.
Alex Cavoulacos, the author of The New Rules of Work and a Founder of The Muse, is a proponent of this method. The idea is that in any given day you can accomplish one big, three medium and five small tasks. When planning your day, categorize your tasks into these buckets.
In case your days are busy with meetings, you can always revisit the number of tasks that you can accomplish in each bucket.
Now that you have these productivity frameworks at your disposal, let’s get to that monster of a to-do list.