Popular Productivity Methods: Which Will Work for You?

Mar 13, 2017
Post Masthead

You want to be more productive, but you’re not sure where to start. Start with this list.

Below, we’ll discuss the top seven productivity methods. Any one of these methods can motivate you, improve your effectiveness, and turn your efforts into success.

But keep in mind that not all methods will work with your personality type. While most are motivational, some methods may actually increase anxiety and uncertainty. So, it’s suggested that you try out all of these methods, giving yourself at least a week with each, to see which one(s) resonate.

1. The Anti-ToDo List

Many of us spend our lives on a never-ending hamster wheel. We’re constantly going from one task to the next, never stopping to acknowledge what we’ve already accomplished.

But your own accomplishments can actually inspire you to be even more productive.

That’s the thought behind the Anti-ToDo List.

Created by Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, the Anti-ToDo List is a summary of your daily accomplishments. It’s a way to motivate yourself by looking at what you’ve already completed. you need that extra boost of encouragement.

How Does It Work?

Whenever you accomplish something notable during your day, make a written note of it.

It doesn’t need to be a grandiose, bucket list-type of accomplishment, either. Your accomplishment can even be reaching a milestone in an extended task.

When you make it a habit, you’ll quickly be able to answer that nagging question, “What did I do today?”

2. Biological Prime Time

At what time in any given day are you the most productive?

Are you a morning lark? Are you a night owl?

Some of us embrace the mornings, and some of us require coffee on an IV drip.

Some of us come alive in the evenings, and some of us can’t keep our eyes open past 10pm.

The time when you’re most productive and filled with energy— that’s considered your biological prime time.

This term was created by Sam Carpenter in his book, Work the System.

How Does It Work?

The idea is simple. By figuring out your most productive times during the day, you can rearrange your schedule (ideally) to match when you’re most focused and motivated.

The easiest way to do this is to simply observe yourself over the course of a week. Check for three things: energy levels, motivation, and the ability to focus on the task at hand (without getting distracted).

Every hour, you’ll make a note of your energy, motivation, and focus. Some people find it easier to measure on a scale from 1 to 10.

After the week is over, you’ll notice trends in your levels. When all three levels are at their highest, this is your biological prime time. You may find that you have more than one prime time during the day.

3. The Checklist Manifesto

Based on the book of the same title by Atul Gawande, the Checklist Manifesto relies on a series of checklists to boost productivity levels.

If you prefer to take life as it comes, it may be difficult to adjust to the somewhat rigid nature of checklists. And you may feel unnerved by an unchecked box that carries over into tomorrow’s checklist.

But others will embrace the structure and security of knowing that everything you need to accomplish for the day is on a list.

How Does It Work?

It’s as simple as creating checklists for your day.

But your checklists can get as detailed as you need. You can opt for a broad overview of your day, or you can go through a detailed step-by-step of each task you need to accomplish.

4. Don’t Break the Chain


Don’t Break the Chain is comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s method for productivity.

This method is not as detailed as some on this list, but it is very effective at what it does.

The basic idea is to pinpoint something you need to get done everyday. Let’s say you’re a writer, and you know that the best way to improve your writing is to write everyday. You’ll motivate yourself to write by looking at that calendar and repeating to yourself, “Don’t break the chain.”

The goal can be anything, of course, from exercise to practicing a new language.

You won’t be able to lay out your entire day with this method, however “Don’t Break the Chain” can help you reach a goal just by sheer consistency.

How Does It Work?

You’ll need a calendar, a red marker (or pen), and a goal to accomplish for each day.

Then, draw a big, red X on the calendar whenever you’ve accomplished your goal for the day.

If all goes well, at the end of the year, you’ll have 365 days of unbroken red Xs.

5. Eat the Frog

Developed by Brian Tracy, Eat the Frog suggests that you focus on the most difficult and daunting tasks of your day first.

The most important tasks are the frogs that you must eat.

The method is rooted in optimism. The idea is that if you can make it through the most difficult task of the day (eating a frog), everything else will be so much easier.

How Does It Work?

In this method, you’ll prioritize your to dos in descending order of importance, starting with the greatest one first and working your way down the list to the least important.

6. Eisenhower Matrix


Named after the 34th US President, Dwight Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Matrix is all about prioritizing tasks in matters of urgency.

It’s useful for time management.

How Does It Work?

Each day, you’ll create a simple quadrant matrix, labeled as followed:

Important + Urgent
You’ll do these tasks now.

Important + Not Urgent
You’ll spend the majority of your day in these tasks. Schedule time to do it during your day.

Not Important but Urgent
You can outsource or delegate these tasks. Who can you do these tasks for you?

Not Important + Not Urgent
You don’t need to do these tasks at all. Get rid of these tasks.

To quote President Eisenhower, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

When you first start with the Eisenhower Matrix, it may be difficult to determine which tasks go where. Start by deciding what tasks you absolutely cannot delegate, and then determine which of those tasks must be done right away and which can wait.

7. Pomodoro Timer

Developed by productivity expert Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management tool.

If you employ this technique, you’ll break up your day into short spurts of focused energy.

How Does It Work?

The Pomodoro technique is simple and straightforward. You’ll work for 25 minutes and then take a five minute break. Repeat.

After four intervals (or pomodori), you’ll take a longer break (between 15 to 30 minutes). And then the cycle starts again.

The idea is that you can work on anything— even the most boring and tedious task— for 25 minutes. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a five minute break. At which time, you can either return to the previous task or do something totally new.

The Pomodoro Technique is effective because it cuts down on boredom and mental fatigue. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment when you hear that timer go off.

Speaking of which, there are several Pomodoro timer apps available.

Final Thoughts

Increasing your productivity requires commitment, tenacity, and embracing the right system. Hopefully, you’ve found a winner in one of these above-mentioned systems, but remember that you can also customize these productivity methods to meet your unique needs.

Which one of these productivity methods is your favorite?