I’m not talking about brain surgery or some advice you’d forget after reading, but rather about what actually works.
Let’s be honest. You can empty your wallet purchasing all personal development books, go to conferences, soak up all the advice you get, and yet not feel like you’re using your time effectively.
In fact, you won’t achieve the expected results even if you had 30 hours in a day, or if you knew all kinds of ‘secret sauces’ to working better and priorities decided.
To be clear, being productive is all about dealing with your own stuff, sticking to discipline, and practising until you get better. We all know it in our hearts, after all.
Yet, certain ways work
Even though all sorts of ‘hacks and tricks’ start feeling useless after a
while, certain tips really help, and they stick to you as you inculcate them in your life.
Your work pattern, habits, or skills go hand in hand – and if you can
establish a proper balance between them, you can nail what you do. You’d simplify your life.
Here are seven ways to be more productive
Most of these theories are tried and tested, and found to be useful when it comes to improving the productivity of individuals, regardless of any external circumstances they’re dealing with.
1. Pareto Principle
“The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”
Everything you do can be divided into two categories:
The important part brings outcomes, and the other part is the ineffective one.
Dedicate more of your time to the tasks which are responsible for the
results. As Pareto stated, focusing on the 20% alone can do miracles for
Translation: Focus on tasks that are responsible for outcomes.
2. Pomodoro Technique
“The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method technique which uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.”
If inconsistency is your problem – pomodoro technique might bring you
back on the track.
According to the pomodoro technique, we are more productive when we
take small breaks between the whole duration of our tasks, compared to
when we do them continuously.
A single pomodoro requires you to work approximately between 15-25
minutes, followed by a 3-5 minute break.
One pomodoro cycle consists of 4 such pomodoros, after which you may
take a long 15 minute break and start with a new cycle again.
However, using the pomodoro technique isn’t the most effective solution as you might get side-tracked easily if you aren’t serious about using it. Try it only if you’re determined about using it as it requires firm
Translation: Don’t slog, take breaks, and you’d automatically work better.
3. Hawthorne Effect
“The Hawthorne effect is a psychological phenomenon that produces an improvement in human behaviour or performance as a result of increased attention from others.”
We are all somehow concerned about how we’re perceived. Our mind
works subconsciously – it cares about social reputation and respect all
Although the Hawthorne effect is environment-oriented (which means
that it works based on how others treat you), you may direct it to
For example, when you think about starting a new project but no one
knows about it, then you might not use up your complete potential. But telling your acquaintances about your project can impel them to ask you about your progress, making you self-conscious.
If you are a social person and other’s attention doesn’t trouble you, use
the Hawthorne effect to your advantage.
Translation: Use the expectations of people to motivate yourself.
4. Zeigarnik Effect
“We remember better that which is unfinished or incomplete.”
You know the feeling you get when you leave something incomplete,
right? The one that makes you roam around confusedly.
That feeling doesn’t stop poking your brain, and keeps you restless until
you finish the incomplete task or accomplish your objective.
You can use that feeling to be more productive – by initiating your long
If there’s something you want to do but you aren’t doing it, then starting
that task is the best thing you can do.
After that, the task will take over your head, it’ll remind you of itself,
occupy your thoughts, and stay there until you finish it.
If you’re worried about procrastination, start somewhere – Zeigarnik
effect will do rest of the work for you.
Translation: Leave things incomplete and do other tasks, as you’ll do both eventually.
5. Expectancy Theory
“It proposes that people are motivated by their conscious expectations of what will happen if they do certain things, and are more productive when they believe their expectations will be realized.”
We’re motivated by outcomes and work more effectively under better
If you were paid 10,000$ for a job instead of 1000$ a month, you’d work
better, won’t you? That’s how our expectations rule our minds.
When you’re working, raise your expectations for yourself, think of the
possible benefits which you’ll have, and visualize the rewards which you
However, don’t let those reward be the sole purpose of your work as you
might get disappointed when your work fails to meet your expectations.
If possible, keep your motivation-triggers emotional rather than material. Use your goals to push yourself forward, but don’t be a slave to them.
Translation: Think of the outcomes and why they matter to you – you’d
automatically work better.
6. Parkinson’s Law
“Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.”
When you’re given more time than necessary to complete a task, you
intentionally take more than usual – this is what the Parkinson’s Law
Suppose you can create a graphic within 20 minutes, but you’re asked to get it done within an hour. Then chances are you’ll spend rest of the 40 minutes scrolling through Facebook, and drinking coffee, sidelining the main task.
You slow down.
Things get worse when you have some personal goals to accomplish,
because then you’re not obligated, and hence take things more loosely.
So here are two quick ways to encounter this problem:
1. Keep a pile of tasks queued.
2. Assign only sufficient time a task, but nothing more.
Give a task the time it deserves, nothing more. What remains will be yours to use productively.
An example of Parkinson’s Law are exams. You take enough time at start, but in the end, when you realize that time is less, you rush faster and get stuff done within minutes.
Translation: Decrease the time required to do a task and try completing it within that duration.
7. Hofstadter Law
“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
One common mistake most people make is approximating the required
time to do something. They never get it right. No one does.
It happens to all of us – this is the reason why deadlines are postponed,
professionals fail to ship products on time, and also why our lives are
often messed up.
If reading this post is taking longer than you had expected, then it’s just
Hofstadter’s law at work.
The only solution to this problem is to first think about the time which a
certain task needs, and then extend it up to 1.75 times or so. It works, in most cases.
The next time you predict how long a certain work might take, increase the time to have a reliable conclusion.
Another similar term is planning fallacy, which is as follows: “The planning fallacy is the tendency of individuals to underestimate the duration that is needed to complete most tasks.”
Translation: Have realistic expectations, otherwise you’ll be disappointed and lose your motivation.
Were these tips helpful?
I hope you remember at least one of the suggested ideas – because there aren’t any real hacks, but some ideas that last.
What works for you, simply works for you. So find out what makes you
work harder and better.
I’m Vishal Ostwal – a writer, blogger, and the kind of person whose name rhymes with his surname.
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How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.