Do More With Less: 5 Productivity Techniques to Get the Job Done

Do More With Less: 5 Productivity Techniques to Get the Job Done

Prioritisation by Freepik

Image source: Freepik

Let’s face it, the word ?productivity? has a real stigma about it.

It drums up visions of boardrooms and corporate-types dreaming up ways to ?Increase efficiency! Better our yield! Reduce idle time! More productivity!?

In reality, productivity (in its truest form) can be such a positive thing on our mental and physical health. 

Here’s why:

  1. We can do more with less, giving us more time to recharge our batteries. 
  2. Individually, we can enjoy the satisfaction of truly accomplishing our goals. Studies have shown that our brains are wired to release dopamine (the ?feel good? neurotransmitter) when we achieve goals and tasks. This is why checklists work!

If you?re a person with a mile-long to-do list, it may be time to invest in some creative prioritisation and time management skills so you can still get things done.

Below is a collection of some of the most popular (and ?out there?) techniques we’ve found to date.

Time Management



When to use it:

If you need to complete tasks that require less thought (filling out forms, administrative tasks, etc.) or things you don’t want to do.

What is it?

This method (named after the Pomodoro kitchen timer the method is based around) is built on the idea that most people can only focus on tasks in short 25 minute ?bursts?.

How to use it:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and work through that time period, uninterrupted. No answering emails, no other tasks. If you?re interrupted or realise you have another task to do, write it down and do it later.
  • At the end of your 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break.
  • Once you’ve completed 4 ?pomodoro? sessions (i.e.: 1 hour total), take a longer break ? 20 to 30 minutes.


Flow Time

When to use it:

If you?re designing, creating or problem solving ? tasks that take larger chunks of time and uninterrupted focus.

What is it?

Created by Zo? Read-Bivens as the answer to the critiques of the Pomodoro technique (too many interruptions, bursts too short), the Flowtime Technique works on the assumption that people work better in larger blocks where they have the freedom to be creative and focus on just one task.

How to use it:

  • Write down one task you plan to work on during a flow session
  • Keep working on it until you need a break ? this doesn’t have to be a specific amount of time. Just keep going until you lose focus and need to refresh.
  • Write down how many interruptions (calls, emails, texts, desk drop-ins) that you receive in that period to understand how you can manage or eliminate distractions.
  • There are no hard-and-fast rules around breaks, however Read-Bivens does suggest:
  • 5 minute break for 25 minutes of work or less
  • 5 ? 8 minute break for 25 ? 50 minutes of work
  • 10 minute break for 50 ? 90 minutes of work
  • 15 minute break for 90 minutes of work

In this way, there is still the ?reward? you get from the Pomodoro ? minus the interruptions and the feeling of being beholden to the timer.


Time Matrix

Time Matrix

When to use it:

If you have a long list of things to do or struggle to know which items to tackle first, this list can help to categorise your to-do list and put things in perspective.

What is it?

Originally coined by Stephen Covey, the time matrix is a great tool for understanding whether a task is a ?do now? vs. ?do later? vs. ?delegate?.

The idea behind the matrix is that you weigh up the importance and the urgency of a task and then prioritise it based on that:

How to use it:

Rank each of your tasks in terms of urgency (ie: requires immediate attention) and importance (things that contribute to our long-term goals).


Time Matrix

If you want to think ?big picture? when you prioritise, there are now multiple versions of this matrix based around the impact vs effort of a task and the value vs cost of a task:


NEW Prioritisation Matrix

Inspired by: Cost-Impact Matrix from Lean Product Management by Mangalam Nandakumar

MIT (Most Important Thing) / Eat That Frog

Most Important Task

When to use it:

When you can’t see the wood for the trees and everything feels important, it can be hard to zero in on one task. This method helps you quickly and easily identify that one task.

What is it?

We focus on this idea pretty heavily in our Coaching for Managers workshop ? it’s important to ask yourself:

?What is the one thing you can do that will have the most impact??

It’s a way of identifying the important tasks vs. the minutiae we can get stuck in.

How to use it:

Write down everything you need to do on a piece of paper (as much as this feels like a waste of time now, you?ll earn yourself extra time later). Circle the one task / item on the page that will have the most impact on your day / week / year ? that’s your MIT!

Agile Technique


When to use it:

When you have 8 hours in a day, and 10 hours? worth of potential work to get done.

What is it?

For anyone who has dabbled in software or fast-paced project work, you?ll be no stranger to Agile.

When we speak about Agile in prioritisation, it is simply a way of breaking down tasks and ranking them in order of importance. It was born out of the project management problem as old as time: it’s still challenging to try and complete all client requirements within budget, time and scope (hello scope creep!)

How to use it:

Write down every task / requirement that is part of a project and then number them in order of importance. You focus on task #1 first and work your way down.

There are four levels of importance you?ll usually see in agile:

  • Critical ? this needs to get done and it’s not up for debate
  • High ? these aren’t necessarily critical, but you very badly want them done
  • Medium ? these are things you want, but there are also things you want less
  • Low ? nice-to-haves

Keep in mind ? there are hundreds, if not thousands of these techniques ? so it’s worth trying each of them out for a few days to see if you notice a difference.

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