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A Simple Productivity System To Help You Become More Productive

A Simple Productivity System To Help You Become More Productive

There are dozens of productivity systems out there. Obviously there is not ONE best way but rather different methods that are helpful in different situations. Some people will have better results with certain techniques whereas the same technique might not prove beneficial for somebody else. Over the last few years I tried all kinds of things: committing to one big, important thing a day and blocking 3-4 hours out, working in parallel, using different organizing tools, using the Pomodoro Technique, working until I reached a certain amount of hours or a certain amount of words, tracking hours, working when I felt like it, working in libraries, in my bed or outside, working alone or together.

I literally went through all kinds of techniques and possible working scenarios. Step by step I am moving closer to a handful of techniques that work best for me. Today I will share one of the systems that proved to be tremendously effective. It is a combination of the Eisenhower System and the idea to consider your cognitive resources.

Probably one of the most famous and widely used productivity techniques and management ways is to distinguish between important and urgent, important and non-urgent, non-important but urgent and neither important nor urgent. This system was thought to be used by Eisenhower and therefore called the Eisenhower System.

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The downside of this technique is, that you will sometimes get stuck with work that doesn’t require a lot of cognitive energy during your cognitive prime simply because it is urgent and important. And then at the end of the day you might get time to do something important which requires a high cognitive focus, but you depleted your cognitive energy before. Therefore I sort my work in three different categories before I apply the important/urgent classification. The three categories are:

High Cognitive Strain

In this category are things like writing, active learning, preparing for talks or designing a workshop. Usually you need a lot of cognitive resources to go about these tasks. Working on these things while not being in your cognitive prime is not smart. You make considerably more mistakes, are less creative and more prone to inefficiency. Therefore these things should be done when you are fully alert and awake.

For different people this is a different time of the day. As you can read in Mason Currey’s, Daily Rituals, different people prefer different times of the day to get this kind of work done. Sometimes you need to push through tiredness and laziness but generally there are certain times of the day when you are able to perform better.

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You should consider to commit at least a certain amount of time for these tasks, since it often takes time to get into it. I commit at least three rounds of the Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes of work, followed by a 5 minute break) for this kind of work. Use your cognitive energy wisely and block the time when you are the most alert for these tasks.

Mild Cognitive Strain

In this category belongs tasks like responding to mail, doing research, skimming texts, organizing and planning, phone calls, editing text (only formal, not actual content) and things alike. Often these tasks don’t require much cognitive resources and don’t take very long. You can fill small spaces between meetings with it or when you notice you can’t do deep work anymore.

Low Cognitive Strain

There are a bunch of tasks which belong to this category for example: looking for pictures for articles, scheduling Facebook posts, decluttering your desktop, seeding posts and the like.

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It is highly advisable to make a time constraint, as these tasks often tend to expand and require as much time as you allow them. Often you can do these things on the side while watching a TED talk, listing to music or talking to friends.

You can literally save this work for times when you don’t need to focus anymore. Filling your normal schedule with these kinds of tasks is a waste of valuable cognitive focus.

This system has a clear advantage of using your cognitive resources to its best. The downside (which sometimes can also be an upside) is that you are separating different work-steps. Therefore sometimes this system is not applicable if you want to get one big thing done as a whole (example: writing an article, editing it, uploading it, scheduling it or seeding it).

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In the end you should try out different methods and see what works best for you. Don’t buy into a system or dismiss it without testing it first.

Featured photo credit: julietvanree via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

So you have a dream, but you have no idea how to get there? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many people are in the same boat. They know what they want, but sometimes they don’t even believe it’s possible. So what happens? They either don’t try, or, if they do, they give up before they achieve their goal.


If you’re one of those people, here are 7 things you can do to visualize your results and make them happen:

1. Focus on what you can do now.

Let’s say you have no money in savings because you are literally living paycheck-to-paycheck. How is it possible to ever imagine having a few thousand dollars in savings when all you see is money going out the door? You may not think it is. But you don’t have to start big. Reach in your purse or pocket and grab that spare change. Put it in a jar. Make a habit of doing this. If you do it long enough, it will add up. Then move up and put a dollar in the jar–then five. If you get a tax refund, stick some of it in savings. I think you see the point. Just do something. Any little action toward your goal makes a difference in helping you get there.

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2. Break down your goal into small steps.

Maybe you want to start your own business. And you might be great at seeing the end result. You get excited about it, but then you realize that your big vision is at least 10 years off. Then you get overwhelmed, frustrated, and you convince yourself that you can’t do it. Think in terms of baby steps. Start by building a website. Educate yourself on how to attract clients. Slowly, you will make your way toward your end result. Remember, it’s not a race. No one is judging you for how fast you get there.

3. Turn your steps into a chronological plan.

Once you have the small steps broken down, prioritize them. Maybe you want to lose 50 pounds. You have already completed the first step by eliminating one particular food from your diet that will cut out a lot of calories. Then you listed out the other foods you can eliminate and calories you can count. Now, for step three, put them on your calendar. For example: “by June 1st, I will have eliminated these three foods from my diet. By July 1st, will be eating 1,700 calories a day.” You get the point. Put your goals on a calendar and stick to it.

4. Pretend that it has already happened.

With any of the three scenarios above, you can act like your goal is already accomplished. Get your bank statement out and write in the amount of money you want to see in your savings account. Hang it up somewhere. Talk to yourself about how awesome it is to have $2,000 in your savings. Or pretend that the business you just started is a smashing success. Clients are breaking down your doors. Or see yourself feeling great after losing all that weight. Trick your mind into believing it has already happened.

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5. Figure out what proof you need that you have achieved your goal.

It is so easy to get frustrated and give up. But if you do, you’ll never get where you want to be. How much money do you need in your savings to feel like you are actually making progress? How many clients or website traffic do you need to feel like your business is on its way to success? How many pounds do you need to lose to get excited and feel like you don’t want to give up? It’s up to you. But you need to figure it out so you don’t quit.

6. Visualize it.

If you are visual person, close your eyes, and see it done. Do this in the morning before you get out bed, and when you go to sleep at night. Or meditate on it at your convenience. The key is to do this every day. The more you can do it, the better. Not only does it get you into the habit of focusing on the end result, it really does trick your subconscious mind into thinking it is reality. If you’re not a visual person, write down affirmations and repeat them every day. However you choose to do it, the key is consistency. Keep doing it.

7. Talk about it to everyone.

Telling other people about your goals makes them real. And it represents a commitment. If you tell your friends, “I’m starting a business,” then they will keep asking you how it’s going. Or if you want to lose that weight, your friends and family will most likely support you. The more you talk about it, the more you get caught up and excited about the end result. It will go from fantasy to reality.

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Remember, everyone gets discouraged at some point when they try to achieve a goal. It’s normal. But the difference between the people who succeed and the people who don’t is commitment and consistency. They don’t give up. They keep going. You can too, if you follow these seven simple steps.

Featured photo credit: on a way to horizon/Shutterstock via shutterstock.com

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