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Last Updated on March 17, 2021

How to Be Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks to Make in Life

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How to Be Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks to Make in Life

Everyone assumes that being more productive is simply about getting more done in less time. If you are a productive person, you definitely accomplish more in months than many people do in years. This is why so many strive to learn how to be productive.

However, productivity is more of a way of being. You could be doing less, and, at the same time, be more productive. What do you think of when you think about being more productive in your life?

On your search for being more productive, you are likely to come across a wealth of information on different tools, techniques, and tips to employ. Most of the time, it may seem like common sense; however, common sense is definitely not common practice, and this is why many individuals struggle to increase their productivity.

Most of what you will read will improve your results, but another contributing factor is that some of the suggestions just don’t seem to resonate with people or cannot be easily applied.

I am not going to tell you where you can buy a magic pill to take away any effort you need to make to achieve what you want, but I am going to share with you 4 tiny tweaks that really work as you learn how to be productive.

It is not only about applying the best practices but also applying yourself more and in different ways.

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1. Get out of Your Own Way

Sometimes, all you need to do is stop sabotaging yourself and get out of your own way in order to develop productive habits. Sometimes self-sabotage can be obvious, like when you completely avoid moving forward with projects. Other times, it can look like perfectionism, where you are never satisfied with the end result and so never quite do your best work.

You might tend to look at all the extrinsic factors of why you can’t be more productive, and you might blame, complain, and point fingers at everyone and everything, except yourself.

When the blame cannot be directed externally, you might then resort to using excuses, desperately searching for a justification that will give you comfort because “you have no control over what happens.”

How many excuses do you have and live by each day? “I couldn’t do this because…or I don’t have time to do this because…” Your excuses might be valid, but in the end, they’re really only slowing you down; it is an avoidance technique that we subconsciously use when we don’t feel capable of completing the important tasks at hand.

Not dealing with procrastination is a clear example of standing in your own way. If you don’t tackle it, it will be there the next time you attempt to do whatever it is that you are procrastinating on. If that’s a problem you’re facing, you can check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

Put results before comfort if you really want to change how productive you are. It may be difficult to find your focus at first, but once you get out of your own way and stop making excuses, you’ll find that life gets easier overall.

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2. Talk to Yourself Differently

Productive individuals think very differently than others. You need to challenge your thoughts and develop a productive mindset. A productive person avoids thinking about all the things they won’t be able to do for X or Y reasons.

Instead, they think:

  • I need to do this and this. What is the best way for me to get everything done?
  • What is causing the stress, and what needs to change so that I manage this situation better?
  • What can I do to improve this, considering the current circumstances?

The words and phrases you use immediately empower you, or they don’t; they either make you feel better or more stressed. You can use positive affirmations as a form of positive self-talk if you aren’t sure where to start.

The words you use to talk to yourself are pivotal to everything in life because they will be your guide, whether they support you or not[1]. Being more productive will get much easier when your words build you up instead of tearing you down.

3. Adjust the Suit to Fit Your Body

Time management supports productivity, so it’s an important skill to develop when you want to know how to be productive. Most people often overlook the fact that time management is not a cookie cutter skill though, and what might suit you won’t necessarily work for your colleague or best friend.

You need to take the advice given from a meta view, and then adjust it to your specific situation.

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Think about clothes shopping:

Sometimes the suit doesn’t fit, and you need to make adjustments and tweaks so that it fits your body perfectly. The same is true with time management and being more productive. You need to personalize what you read to your needs.

If some tips and techniques don’t work for you, instead of throwing in the towel, find a way to adjust them to suit your situation. Maybe time blocking won’t work for your specific job, but can you set a timer and work on something only for a certain amount of time?

Adjust when necessary to find the best way or organizing your time.

4. Identify Your Time Thieves

We all have time thieves, but most of us haven’t yet identified them. For some of us, it can be the apps on our phone that we scroll through. For others, it can be the bad habit of constantly checking email or spending more time taking breaks than actually working during our peak productivity hours.

If you can identify your biggest time thieves, the activities or situations that throw you off course, distract or interrupt you, or the bad habits that keep you from performing better, you will improve your results much more quickly and better learn how to be productive on a daily basis.

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If you try to study, apply different techniques, and you ignore your current thieves, the effort will remain fruitless. Productive people know that eliminating time thieves is key to staying focused in the long run.

If you just aim to change one of your worst time management habits, you will change your results immediately. It will most likely also give you the impetus to change what else isn’t working once you feel the reward of your efforts and see the clear connection between what you do and what your reality is.

Think about one thing that, if you changed it right now, would have the biggest positive influence on your productivity. Write this down, think about what causes or contributes to this, and what your solution will be moving forward.

If you aren’t sure what has been distracting you, this guide can help you: How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus.

The Bottom Line

When you’re learning how to be productive, don’t forget to put results before comfort, if that is what you really want. Most people give up without ever knowing that they really can achieve their goals, meet their objectives, and transform their lives. Follow the 4 tiny tweaks above to get yourself moving in the right direction and learn how to be more productive.

More on How to Be Productive

Featured photo credit: Madison Yocum via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Psych Central: 5 Tips to Improve Your Self-Talk

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2021 Updated) 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life How to Be Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks to Make in Life 10 Negative Thoughts We All Have and What to Think Instead 22 Hardest But Most Important Things You Must Do To Achieve Success

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Published on October 22, 2021

The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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  • Task Name
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Interruptions
  • Work Time
  • Break Time

Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

1. Choose a Task

To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

3. Facilitating Breaks

One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

Reference

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