Struggling to complete a big project, finish a task that’s lingered on your desk for weeks, or just want to get a stack of work done fast? One of these three proven productivity techniques can help you do all that—and more.
The Pomodoro Technique — Best for large tasks
Set a timer for 25 minutes, and start to work. When the timer rings, take a short break—about five minutes. That's one "Pomodoro." Repeat. Every four “Pomodoros,”take a longer break—say between 15 and 30 minutes. After each break, you should feel relaxed and ready to return to work. Should you get into a grove or simply need to spend more than 25 minutes on a task, adjust the timing and breaks to better suit you. (And by the way, this technique was named after a timer that resembles a tomato, or “pomodoro” in Italian.)
Don't Break the Chain — Best for repetitive daily tasks
Choose a project or task you need or want to do. Each day, work on that task at the same time. When you’re done with that task for the day, put a big checkmark on a calendar. Over time, those checkmarks should motivate you to continue, and to not “break the chain.” (You can take necessary days off.) This strategy is said to have originated with the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He felt that the daily consistency he brought to his writing yielded more effective jokes. The best part of this method? Although it puts the emphasis on process, rather than on achievement, the more time you spend on process, the more likely you are to succeed!
Kanban — Best for project management
Kanban gives users a visual snapshot of their projects. It features three elements. (1) A Kanban board (whiteboard, wall, bulletin board) that “holds” an entire project; (2) A list — a titled column on a Kanban board; (3) A set of cards (index cards, post-it notes, handwritten notes) on which are written tasks to be completed, or steps in a process. Say you create a board to manage an event. The headers on your board might include “Venue,” “Food,” “Beverages,” “Speakers,” “Travel Costs,” or “Number of Guests.” Cards with vital information would go under each heading, i.e., “vendor contacted,” “waiting for contract signing,” “flowers delivered.” As the status of portions of a project change, cards can be updated in place or moved from list to list—and your team can see progress at-a-glance.