Productivity approaches – GTD, Pomodoro and more

3 min read
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It’s easy to get swamped by work without realizing what’s happening. One moment you’re sitting comfortably, fielding calls and replying to your E-mail, and the next, you’re blank, with an uneasy feeling there’s something important that just needs to be done, but just what the heck is it?

The biggest reason why many of us – seasoned corporate warriors included – can sometimes feel out of our depth with coping with a normal day at work is simple – multitasking. No matter how good you’re at it, juggling different tasks, with varying priorities, isn’t the easiest thing in the world.



Luckily, there are some productivity techniques that just might be worth a try. Some of these require no more than a pen and paper, while most are also available on all the major smartphone platforms or on the web. If you do try any of these out, do remember to give them enough time – it might take you a few days – or weeks – before you can incorporate them smoothly into your routine.

1. Getting Things Done (GTD)

The Getting Things Done (GTD) method’s been one of the most popular productivity techniques for quite a while now. The brainchild of productivity guru David Allen, GTD’s forte is that it frees you up to focus on the task at hand. We’ve all faced some kind of panic when our workload seems almost overwhelming. According to Allen, no matter how efficient we might be at multitasking, we usually aren’t too good at managing the finer details.

Most of us will also agree with the GTD philosophy that by focusing on too many things at once, all we do is increase the likelihood of freezing under pressure. GTD preempts this by encouraging us to organize our work. By assigning priorities, contexts, and deadlines, you’ll learn to free up your mind and pick up the ability to do what’s required without worrying too much about your work. For those wanting to dive straight into GTD, there are several web and phone apps that help automate your planning. You can also read more about GTD at Allen’s website, www.davidco.com.

2. Pomodoro

Ever noticed that your focus starts flagging after a while? There’s a reason why most productivity coaches advise short spells of intense work – with little breaks to keep you fresh. The Pomodoro technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, formalizes this by recommending 25-minute work intervals. Called ‘pomodoros’, each 25-minute unit is separated by a short break, with every ‘set’ of 3-4 pomodoros punctuated by a larger (15 minutes) break.

According to the Pomodoro website (www.pomodorotechnique.com), this method not only aids concentration and prioritizing, but also helps predict the time required, and reduces time wastage. Another advantage of working with fixed 25-minute slots is that you can also allocate time for reviewing your work.

3. Zen To Done

There are some of us for whom even these formal productivity techniques fail. If that’s the case with you as well, focusing on reducing clutter might help kickstart your new efficiency regime. Blogger Leo Babuata’s Zen To Done (www.zenhabits.net) system promises to help you find order in your daily routine. This might be a great option for those who lack the discipline GTD and Pomodoro seem to require.

4. Action Method

With a philosophy differing from productivity systems that focus on the organization of tasks, the Action Method, as the name suggests, looks at the actions you need to carry out. Eschewing the heavy categorization of tasks found in some systems, this method (www.actionmethod.com) promises to cut straight to the heart of the matter – what needs to be done.
Apart from the ‘formal’ techniques we’ve mentioned, there are some other ways you can ensure your workflow remains smooth:

  • Google Tasks and Calendar: For those who don’t want to adopt one of the systems we’ve looked at, Google’s Calendar and Tasks apps might be worth a try.
  • Banish that Internet: No tech has proved as useful for work as the Internet – but it has got its drawbacks. Promise yourself you won’t go check out YouTube or your favorite cooking blog – at least for a bit!
  • Take frequent breaks: The Pomodoro system knows it – work in short spells and take frequent breaks.
  • Learn to say no: Don’t let colleagues, friends, or phone calls disrupt your focus when in the middle of an important task. Once you lose focus, it takes time to get back in the zone.

We hope this helps you organize your day better. We’ll look at these in greater detail sometime soon!

Niraj is the Founder of Hiver. Hiver turns Gmail into a powerful collaboration tool by letting you manage Shared Inboxes right from your inbox. Niraj can be reached on Twitter at nirajr.