There are only so many hours in the day, and sometimes it feels like our to-do lists are never-ending. Most people are continually looking for the best way to hack their day for optimal productivity to get the most done. However, there’s no “one size fits all” strategy. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and habits when it comes to managing time and productivity, and what works for one may not work for another.
We want you to find the best possible time-management method, so we put together a list of five ideas to help you find the right fit. Cheers to optimal productivity!
Do your most important work when your brain is at its peak
When do you feel most awake and focused during the day? Some find they feel most productive first thing in the morning, while others do their best work late at night. Whenever your brain is at its peak is where you should begin structuring your day and lifestyle. This is the time to make the most important decisions and complete the most pressing tasks. Block off this time on your calendar to work on high-level strategy and just say no to meetings and nonessential activities. Be intentional and stick to focusing on the important things you need to get done.
Try the time blocking method
If you have the ability to plan in advance, time-blocking might work for you. This method requires planning out your day beforehand and dedicating specific hours to specific tasks. Once you figure out what needs to get done for the week, enter them into your calendar and pick ideal dates and times.
Following this method is advantageous because it forces you to work within a defined schedule and focus on specific tasks. Standard to-do lists present you with tasks to be completed whenever - time blocking takes it a step further by providing you with both tasks and time frame expectations.
When scheduling out your desired tasks, don’t forget to include downtime, breaks, and time to focus on smaller administrative tasks. More important tasks can go in larger blocks - for example, the first two hours of your day are dedicated to uninterrupted deep work on a big project, and your afternoon includes smaller blocks for meeting and email time.
Focus on the ‘one thing’
In Gary Keller’s hit book The ONE Thing, he asks the question, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?" This idea is all about focusing on what is truly essential, and it makes up what the MIT (Most Important Task) Technique is all about. Rather than scrawling out an extensive to-do list and attempting to get it all done, determine the top three unquestionably essential tasks that you can laser focus on. The idea is that until these tasks are completed, you don’t do anything else.
Once the top tasks are decided, they are scheduled first in your day. This method works well when used in combination with the time-blocking method because you can save your early hours for the most essential tasks before getting bombarded by distractions.
By utilizing the MIT Technique, you are basically guaranteeing productivity. James Clear is a fan, saying: “If you do the most important thing first each day, then you’ll always get something important done. I don’t know about you, but this is a big deal for me. There are many days when I waste hours crossing off the 4th, 5th, or 6th most important tasks on my to-do list and never get around to doing the most important thing.”
Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a simple method that involves intense work sessions followed by a brief break. All it requires is a timer, and it gives you the ability to manage your larger tasks into manageable intervals.
Here’s how it works:
- Pick a task to work on
- Set your timer for 25 minutes
- Focus on the tasks until the timer goes off
- Take a short, 5-minute break
- Every four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break (around 20-30 minutes)
I’m personally a fan of the Pomodoro Technique because it allows you to make a huge dent in your workload while still taking sufficient breaks, which decreases the chance of becoming mentally fatigued. The work sessions are short and manageable, which supports intense focus to really get things done. The Pomodoro Technique is best used in environments where you won’t be interrupted, so this won’t be an optimal method if it’s an especially busy day at the office.
Time is a commodity, and it’s the only thing we can’t control. However, we can control how we spend it! Chances are, the items on your “to-do” list far outweigh the things on your “done” list. Take a look at that first list, and notice which tasks would be easy to either automate or delegate to another person. By delegating whatever isn’t the best use of your time, you free yourself up to grow your career or business. Whether this means trusting your team with more responsibilities or finding a virtual assistant, delegating keeps the ball moving.
Finding The Ideal Mix
Find your most productive workflow might mean combining some of these methods. For example, three Pomodoro sessions work well inside of a 90-minute time-blocked session. No matter which method you choose, it’s crucial that you schedule your day - after all, if you don’t prioritize your time and energy, someone else surely will! What’s your ideal productivity method? Let us know in the comments.
This post was brought to you by Dmitri Leonov, VP of Growth at SaneBox.
Dmitri Leonov is an internet entrepreneur, leading growth efforts at Sanebox. He has over 10 years of experience in startups, corporate strategy, sales strategy, channel development, international expansion, and M&A.