One of first things I realized on my journey with productivity is that there’s no silver bullet for it (aw, man!). It’s more like a silver shotgun shell: you combine a lot of effective little tweaks, efficiencies, processes, and other tricks to improve productivity. Some of them work well and hit on target, others don’t make the cut and get removed.
I talked in great detail about mind mapping here. This technique is great for creative processes, but also works very well in planning out your day. By brainstorming everything you want to do today, you can see and group priorities, similar tasks, and context much more clearly. Having it all down in this way allows you to form a much better plan of attack, as well as minimize the amount of time you spend transitioning between tasks.
This might seem a little counter-intuitive, but giving yourself less time to do something actually improves the amount you’re able to do on it. If you give yourself only 25 minutes to work on a report, for example, you’re going to use those 25 minutes to its fullest potential, squeezing every second you can out of those minutes. Because you’re focussing only on one task, you’ll be surprised at how much headway you can make in a very short amount of time.
One of my favorite tricks for managing my energy is the pomodoro technique. This technique invovles selecting a task to do, setting a timer (usually 25 minutes) and working only on that task until the timer goes off. Then you take a 5 minute break and either continue working on the task or moving on to another. After 4 “shifts” you take a longer break, 15 to 30 minutes. What’s great about this technique is that it keeps your mind and energy levels really fresh as you focus 100% of your attention on one thing. I usually take a quick lap around my office building, which gets me some sunshine, fresh air, and the blood flowing a little more and that really invirogorates me.