This article is a summarization of the a series of articles on a blog owned and run by the digital productivity company Doist. Their articles are much better and worth a read, but if you’re in an hurry… here’s a cross section of some really good ideas, triple distilled.
Eat the Frog
Author: Becky Kane
Start each day by doing the biggest, hardest thing on your plate before doing anything else.
Eating the frog ensures you’re putting first things first and giving them your best. It puts you in control of consistently progressing toward what’s important to you.
Identify the Frog 🐸
What’s your most important (often, also your hardest) one thing to do today?
Decide tomorrow’s Most Important Task (MIT) at the end of the day. Set up your work environment to begin work on it immediately in the morning.
Eat it 👨🏻🍳
Do that team first. Don’t give anything else a chance to get in your way. Take an hour. Take 4. If you need more than half your day, break down the task into sections and complete a section.
Do it again tomorrow. 🔁
Deep work. Focusing on what’s important & ensuring you take at least one step toward it every day. Being proactive, not reactive.
Apparently Gina Trapani eats frogs. Neat.
Author: Jackie Ashton
Organize your life into categories, assign each a weight, organize to-dos and time-blocks around those categories according to their weights.
Doing a commitment inventory serves to align the energy you spend with the relative importance of the task to you. It prevents you from spacing out on areas of your life, or falling too deeply into a rabbit hole.
- List everything you spend your time on
- Group that list into logical categories
- Assign each category a percentage of your life you want to spend doing it
Ensure each category has enough time to do it well
If you’re spending 5% of your time in a lot of areas, you’re not really focusing on any of them
Organize your to-dos around your categories
If you can’t really fit a “to-do” that’s come across your plate into a category, ask yourself if you really should do it at all
- Break down big tasks into small checklists
Work in bursts, aligned with your categories
Do pomodoro-style work bursts, themed around a given Category
This productivity method is focused on alignment of action with value. It’s one of several that serve to force you to question why you’re doing the things you’re doing. It attempts to boil down life into manageable categories, then break down the things you want to get done into those categories, and break down further still to the actual actions needed to do them.
Author: Chad Hall
Use physical pen & paper throughout the day. Process & transcribe to digital repositories during a nightly review.
Some people work best with pen and paper. Almost everyone could benefit from using it more.
This felt more appropriate…
Nightly review. Selectively transcribing what’s important through desired difficulty.
The Pomodoro Technique
Author: Laura Scroggs
Work in Sprints, with breaks between them.
The Pomodoro Technique reduces distraction & ensures we’re not working past the point of diminishing returns. Also it promotes a healthy balance of work and life.
- Pick a task on your to-do list
- Set a timer for ~25 minutes (this is one “Pomodoro”)
- Work ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY on that task during those 25 minutes
- Take a 5 minute break (also timed)
- GoTo 1. Repeat.
- Every ~4th Pomodoro, take a longer break (~20/30 minutes)
This technique also encourages thinking of your tasks in terms of the “Pomodoro“ duration necessary to accomplish them. It also has you schedule your day around Pomodoros. It’s very all-in.
Focus on deep work. Not spending more time on tasks than they actually require. Planning & executing the plan.
Author: Laura Scroggs
Know the difference between urgent, and important. Do all important things. Delegate or delete the unimportant things.
Because long-term success means more than just focusing on the urgent, and that’s what people tend to do by default.
- Ask yourself “what on my to-do list is urgent?”
- Ask yourself “what on my to-do list is important?” or “what SHOULD be on my to-do list, but isn’t?”
- Anything that’s on both lists, do now.
- Anything that’s only important, schedule it & make sure you follow through on.
- Anything that’s not important, but is urgent, find someone else to do it.
- Anything that’s not important or urgent, don’t do it.
Thinking about what you’re working on. Aligning your efforts with what promotes long-term success.
Author: Amir Salihefedic
6 Basic Principles to being productive.
I think this was included because Amir Salhefedic is a founder and CEO of Todoist. It’s fine, just reads more like a set of guidelines than a true “system” - which is ironic given its name. This is a bit more of an advert for Todoist than the others.
- Take it everywhere
(tasks, ideas, shopping list items, emails to write, websites to check, recurring reviews, etc)
- Break it up into small, actionable tasks
- Get to to-do list zero daily
- Get consistent feedback
Use Todoist… and the same basic productivity advice as anything else. Not bad, just not interesting.
Author: Fadeke Adegbuyi
A once-a-week review of your systems that bridges your long-term ambitions to your day-to-day activities & ensures you don’t leave anything important unattended.
The Weekly Review enables any other productivity habit, goal, or framework you want to use. The weekly review is a time or planning and reflection. It is a time to get your affairs in order and align yourself with your work. It serves as a backbone around which you can build other routines, ensuring that things won’t fall through the crack, without forcing you to constantly be thinking about everything.
- Develop a routine utilizing your systems
Declutter your space and your head
What’s bothering you? Clean your desk & digital workspaces.
Reflect on the week
What didn’t get done? What went well?
Get current on goals & projects
Inbox Zero. How are the Projects going?
Plan the week ahead
What tasks do I need to make? What themes should my days have?
How can I do better next week?
- Follow the routine each week
Integration. Planning. Goal-setting. Alignment. The Weekly Review is the backbone of everything else.
Author: Becky Kane
The big hairy audacious goals we set and the concrete, measurable steps we take to get there.
The OKR technique is simple, but effective. It forces you to choose your long-term priorities, these priorities give you a clear purpose. You pair those big goals with concrete, measurable milestones to make progress against. They are especially effective in large organizations at achieving large goals.
Aaron’s note: this article in the blog is subpar in terms of explaining “how”, especially when you’re not setting them for a team.
- A few times a year, sit down and decide what you want to be in the future.
- Pick 3 to 5 big “Objectives” that would “make you” that person.
- Break down each of those 3 to 5 goals into concrete “Key Results”
- They should be well-defined and measurable
- They should encompass the Objective such that, if you achieve the Key Results then you have necessarily also achieved your Objective
- Check in on the Objectives and Key Results periodically to guide your resource use.
Clarity. Alignment. Period reviews separated by focused sessions of activity.
Author: Laura Scruggs
Make lists. Break down ideas and projects into small actions. Make time to check your systems and set yourself up for success.
Getting Things Done is a cornerstone of general productivity. It is a set of behaviors that synergize with one another to create a robust framework for knocking out projects and not missing appointments without driving yourself crazy in the process.
- Capture ideas, tasks, arms anything else important. Use a consistent place (or a few consistent places) to write it all down.
- Clarify what you’ve written down into things you can do. Break down big Tasks into little ones.
- Organize everything. Check your various lists and make a plan to make your life easier in the future when you work on them. Dope things away where they are useful.
- Review everything on a consistent and recurring basis.
- Engage with the work you’ve set out to do with a sense of calm and ease, because you know you’re on top of everything and you’ve clarified what you want into steps you can take to get it.
Getting things done is all about getting things out of your head so you can focus on the task at hand, and making time and space to get yourself urbanized.
Author: Laura Scruggs
Build dedicated blocks of working time into your schedule, during that time work on what you had scheduled.
Time Blocking gets you out of a mode of being constantly reactive. Blocked time is more efficient than constantly multitasking. It builds in time to actually get traction and make progress on the work you want to be doing without getting pulled away by something else. Also it ensures you are spending your resources on the RIGHT things, rather than the loudest ones. Lastly, it encourages a dedicated focus to the task at hand, free from distractions. This allows you to get traction, instead of distraction.
Time blocking comes in a few different forms, all of which break down to this general scheme:
- Decide what needs to be done
- Decide when you’re going to do it
- Schedule that time to do the thing
- During that time, do the thing
- Time Blocking - standard. Set aside a time to do a specific task. Do the task during that time.
- Task Batching - this is a related technique. Don’t distribute little tasks throughout the day. Do all tasks of the same kind at once. Minimize context switching. Example of this would be to process your inbox all at once near the end of the day, rather than attend to emails throughout the day.
- Day Theming - a less specific variant of time blocking. Rather than setting out a dedicated chunk of time to do a dedicated thing, you decide a “type” of work that you will focus on for a whole day (while still attending to your normal daily tasks)
- Time Boxing - a MORE specific variant of Time Blocking, rather than saying “I will take this time to do this task”, you say “I will take ONLY this time to do this task”. You impose a deadline. You don’t let the task take longer than is needed.
Intentionality. Mono tasking. Control.
Author: Fadeke Adegbuyi
Create a column-based visual representation of the tasks at hand & their statuses.
Kanban boards keep you focused on a manageable number of active tasks, while keeping the other potential work ready and at hand. The Kanban visual aligns with any linear workflow, and quickly gives an overall impression of the scope on your plate & where it’s at in its lifecycle.
- Pick a tool (e.g. whiteboard & sticky notes, mobile apps)
- Define columns based on workflow steps
- Create cards representing the tasks on your plate
- Move cards to the right as the work traverses its workflow
- Continuously update your board to keep it accurate
Visualization. Management & prioritization of work.