Contribution by Scott Doty
Part II of BrainStorm’s blog series on productivity–just in time for final exams!
Eat That Frog! In his book by the same title, Brian Tracy discusses this odd axiom: If you start your day by eating a live frog, the rest of the day will only be better than that moment. In the world of productivity, this translates to choosing the one looming task that you’d most like to see evaporate without your doing anything—the one that is awful and you have trouble bringing yourself to get done—and do it first thing in the day. From that point on, everything else is easy sailing and the day is already in the win column.
Use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage. P’s Law says that the amount of work you have to do will expand, as a gas, to fill the time you allot for it… i.e., if you decide you have until next Thursday at 5pm to plant that garden, you will not get it done a moment before that deadline. Use this natural human inclination to your advantage—set far shorter deadlines for yourself on projects that matter, but that don’t feel urgent. Create a sense of urgency, and you will get it done earlier than you had thought was possible.
Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. Also known as timeboxing, this technique entails using one of those tomato-shaped kitchen ticker-timers as your central prop. You set one for 25 minutes (the optimal amount of time the human brain can focus without fatigue), turn off anything correspondence related (unplug/turn off the phone, close email, etc), and dedicate yourself 100% to just one high-focus task until the timer goes off. When it does, force yourself to let the task be done for now. This form of short-burst, high-intensity mono-focus really helps people who are easily distracted or bored by projects; these people often reward their 25-min sprint with something enjoyable (like a meal or a friendly phone call) before starting their next punch on the Pomodoro.
Craving more tips on packing a greater productivity punch? Stay tuned for Part III (Or go back and revisit Part I!).