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4 Tools to Be More Productive

Last update: 18/03/2021

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Hi Zen Organizers,


Today, we’re going to talk about productivity!


However, before diving right into it, I want to address the reasons why I strive to live a more productive life. I don’t want to be productive to work more, quite the contrary. I try to be more efficient so I have more time to dedicate to projects and activities that are dear to my heart.


I’ve found that if I don’t intentionally and actively track my productivity with the tools and tips below, I tend to procrastinate and do useless and mindless activities (nope, I’m not talking about binge-watching all 8 seasons of Game of Thrones in two weeks…) instead of working on achieving my goals and leaning towards the life I want. I like to say that when I don’t have any goals, I’m a Procrastinator. However, when I do set some goals, I become a Terminator and nothing can stop me from achieving them!


So now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of how I achieve productivity and maybe help you become more productive as well!

1- Bullet Journal (BuJo)

November calendar and to-do list
November Monthly Spread

If you haven’t heard about the Bullet Journal Method, I would highly recommend you go to the official website and read the book to discover this amazing tool. You can also listen to the podcast episode or read the articles I wrote about it (listed below)! Rapidly, it’s a completely customizable system that allows you to gather into one single notebook your planner, your confidante, your creative journal, and much more!


I mostly use my BuJo for my to-do lists and as a planner, but also as a brain dump. I use it to drop all my thoughts, ideas, frustrations, observations, etc. Moreover, I use it to keep me motivated through habit trackers and goal setting spreads. Overall, it's a kind of backup device as well as a testimony of my life.


Ever since I started using it, I’ve genuinely and consistently stuck to my goals. I’ve noticed I’m also calmer and have less on my mind thanks to its constant discharging in the notebook.


Articles I wrote about the Bullet Journal:


2- Time blocking

Digital calendar with moments blocked to do certain tasks
An example of time blocking with Google Calendar

Although my BuJo is great for thinking and writing down all the things I should do or want to do, I find it doesn’t allow me to visualize how I concretely organize my time. I think it lacks the flexibility and commodity of an electronic calendar, so I pair the two tools. This way, in the morning, when I look at my Bullet Journal and decide my priorities and tasks for the day, I schedule all of them on GCal.


However, I don't randomly schedule these tasks. I reflect on the best moment and the amount of time I should allocate to tackle each task. That's exactly what time blocking is: allocating a specific time and duration for a task.

You’ve probably already heard of Parkinson’s law: "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". Well, time blocking helps you set a specific time for your tasks and stick to it so you don’t lose yourself in endless tasks.


Therefore, for time blocking to be profitable, it's crucial to perform the tasks during the period you planned to do it, and most of all, to respect the allotted time for each. Of course, life happens and you can't always follow your plan to the letter, but try as much as possible.

Another aspect to take into account when you’re scheduling your blocks of time is the best moment to do some specific tasks. There are some moments during the day in which you are naturally more focused and others in which you are more creative. Harness these moments to do the right kind of labor (more logical and analytical when you are focused, and more creative when you are prone to this kind of task).


If you don't intuitively know when you are more focused or creative, I highly recommend Dr. Breus’ book, The Power of When. In it, you can discover your chronotype and the best moments to do all sorts of things (sleep, exercise, write, read, etc.). This book has helped me to feel less tired all the time and use the right time of the day for specific tasks, which in turn made me more productive!

Overall, I find that I am definitely more motivated to do even the least interesting tasks, such as cleaning the house or replying to emails, when I use time blocking because I know they have a set beginning and end. I highly recommend this technique if you tend to get lost in the meanders of your work!


3- The Pomodoro Technique

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I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of this technique, but let’s just refresh our minds anyway. The Pomodoro Technique consists of uninterrupted 25-minute periods of work, followed by short 5-minute breaks. Then, after four series of 25 minute-work interleaved by 5-minute breaks, there is a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.


I usually use this technique when I have to work on a task for which I am not motivated and therefore let myself get easily distracted by more interesting things. Consequently, when I sit down to work on such a task, I set my chronometer for 25 minutes in which I do nothing except the task. To ensure this deep and undisturbed focus, I put my personal phone, my corporate phone, and my computer on "Do not disturb" mode. I also close all the tabs that could distract me (e.g. Facebook and email inbox). During those 25 minutes, I focus solely on the task at hand.

When the 25 minutes are up, I then take a short 5-minute break during which I check my phones and emails to see if there’s an emergency that needs attending. SPOILER ALERT: usually, there is no such emergency. So don’t feel bad about disconnecting from all the technology to focus completely on what you're doing. You’ll ultimately be much more productive.


Moreover, you can use the allotted breaks to complete small uncomplicated tasks on your to-do list. This way, you double your productivity! The same goes for the longer breaks: you can use them to tackle your chores or do some physical activity like yoga or walking.

4- The Most Important Task Method (MIT)

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Last but not least: the Most Important Task Method. Instead of creating lengthy and unachievable to-do lists every day, you should try to focus solely on one to three genuinely important tasks. They should be of the utmost importance to you that day. Therefore, you should plan to do them first thing in the morning (if possible). This way, you're sure it'll get done and you will have a great feeling of accomplishment afterward, which, in turn, will boost your morale and make you more productive for the rest of the day!


I have to be honest here, I still write lengthy to-do lists every day in my Bullet Journal, BUT I always put my important symbol (*) next to the 1-3 tasks that are priorities for that day. The important thing is to focus on these tasks first and on the secondary ones after.


I normally use the MIT technique with tasks for which I tend to procrastinate. For example, whenever I have to call somewhere to get information on important matters, I tend to postpone it as much as possible until I have no choice but call. Ever since I started using this method, though, I have drastically reduced my procrastination. Now, I plan these things in my calendar first thing in the morning - with loads of notifications and reminders - and I get done with them right away!


There you have it Mindfullers, my tips, and tools to be more productive, so, in turn, you can live your life to its fullest!

What are your tips to get more done? Are there any similarities? Do you have any other tips or tools to share with us? Please leave a comment below or share them on Instagram @zenlyorganized.com.


As always, I wish you a zenly organized life,


Sarah



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