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10 Habits of The World’s Most Productive People

10 Habits of The World’s Most Productive People

Everyone has had the experience of not having enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to. Given the busy lives that we all lead, staying organized and staying productive can be a challenge. It is easy to get caught up on the wrong path and waste valuable time you need to get things done. Take some advice from ten of the world’s most productive people about staying on task and staying productive.

1. No Email in the Morning

Author of The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss has a brilliant strategy for handling the ubiquitous time-sink that is email. He spends the first few hours of the day ignoring it. According to Ferriss:

“You might need to get into your email to finish 100% of your most important to-dos. But can you get 80 or 90% done before you go into Gmail and have your rat brain explode with freak-out, dopamine excitement and cortisol panic? Yes.”

2. Create a System for Certain Tasks

When you have something you work on everyday it is best to create a system to handle it efficiently and without getting overwhelmed. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com has come up with a strategy for staying on top of emails that he calls “Yesterbox.” Each morning when he boots up his computer he only answers emails he received the day before. As he explains on yesterbox.com:

“The great thing about this is when you get up in the morning, you know exactly how many emails you have to get through, there’s a sense of progress as you process each email from yesterday and remove it from your inbox, and there’s actually a point when you have zero emails left to process from yesterday.”

3. Limit Decision Fatigue

Each time you have to make a decision you use up a little bit of your limited supply of mental energy. To make the most of your cognitive reserves eliminate unnecessary decisions and simplify others. Take an example from productivity gurus like Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Albert Einstein and wear the same outfit every day. By not spending time and energy on picking out clothes, you have more time and energy to devote to more worth-while things.

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4. Handle Things Once

When swift action or decision-making is required, use Harvard Business Professor Robert Pozen’s OHIO strategy and Only Handle It Once. If you get an important email that requires your attention, reply immediately and move on to the next task. Keep your day moving and keep easily finished tasks off your to-do list.

5. Prioritize Tasks

Sometimes the best strategies for staying productive are the most obvious. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stresses the importance of getting easy tasks out of the way in rapid-fire succession:

“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of  progress.”

6. Take Vacations

In a world where everyone is always fighting to get ahead it might seem counter-intuitive to go on vacation, but more and more companies are adopting policies that make time away from the office mandatory. Taking some time to clear your head and relax can do wonders for your productivity when you return. Follow Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s philosophy:

“I pace myself by taking a weeklong vacation every four months.”

7. Sleep

Similar to taking regular vacations, getting a good night’s sleep will recharge your brain and improve your ability to stay on task. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington swears by the strategy of stepping away from a perpetually busy schedule to get the necessary amount of rest (at least 7 hours a night). Not only are you more able to make decisions when you’re rested, those decisions tend to be of better quality and you are less likely to feel overwhelmed by them.

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8. Stay Fit

Take a page from Virgin CEO Richard Branson’s playbook and treat working out like it is part of your job. Many productive people (and scientists alike) find that engaging in at least 20 minutes of moderate intense exercise each day keeps their brains working at a high level and their energy levels high to match.

9. Start Early

You may not love the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn but a surprising number of the world’s most productive people love to get a head start on their day by starting early. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz takes advantage of working at a company built on foundations of caffeine:

“I get up around 4:30, and naturally the first thing I do is make some coffee.”

10. Keep a Routine

Let’s end with a tip from one of the busiest and most powerful men in the world, US president Barack Obama. The secret that keeps him from getting overwhelmed when the going gets tough is to keep to a strict schedule. In addition to only ever wearing blue or gray suits, the leader of the free world insists on his morning workout, dinner with his daughters, and having a late night block of time devoted to reading and preparing for the next day’s work. By limiting uncertainty, he is able to stay maximally productive.

Featured photo credit: Joe Crimmings via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

If you spend any time at all researching life hacks, you’ve probably heard of the famous Pomodoro Technique.

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management life hacks used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference. But if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.

The process is simple:

For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.

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You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.

Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X”, and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

How the Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity

Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use and you will see results very quickly:

“You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”

If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

You’ll grow to “respect the tomato”, and that can help you to better handle your workload.

Successful people who love it

Steven Sande of The Unofficial Apple Weblog is a fan of the system, and has compiled a great list of Apple-compatible Pomodoro tools.

Before he started using the technique, he said,

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“Sometimes I couldn’t figure out how to organize a single day in my calendar, simply because I would jump around to all sorts of projects and never get even one of them accomplished.”

Another proponent of the Pomodoro Technique is Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger tried out this system along with several other similar methods for time management, and said,

“It eased my anxiety over the passing of time and also made me more efficient; refreshed by breaks, for example, I halved the total time required to fact-check a column.”

Any cons for the Pomodoro Technique?

Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[1]

“Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[2]

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“Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticketing on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

Conclusion

One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want… or you can use any timer program on your computer or phone. So even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work. But if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

If you want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article: How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

Reference

[1] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
[2] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

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