Four Great Productivity Methods To Try For A New, More Productive You

Whether you believe in new beginnings or not, the new year is the perfect opportunity to wipe your slate clean and do some personal fine-tuning.

 Although there are many ways you can start the year right with a “new year, new you” attitude, one of the best ways to become a better version of yourself is to develop a work rhythm.

But what in Santa’s name is work rhythm?

New you, new work rhythm

In a nutshell, work rhythm is just another fancy term managerial coaches use to refer to time management in the office.

When you have a good work rhythm, you have developed a healthy schedule between work and everything else (slacking off included) so that you can move fast and get things done without feeling overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same tempo when it comes to drone work. Some people are at their peak in the morning and they take advantage of the momentum until it dies down. Others prefer procrastination and go in a mad frenzy, getting their work done at the office hours end. One’s method cannot work for the other even if you put a gun to their heads.

This January, make yourself more productive by using the time management style that suits your personality. We’ve compiled some of the best work rhythm techniques out there, pick the one that suits you best.

1. Pomodoro Technique

Ideal for: People who want to take advantage of their short bursts of creativity—and ones with a goldfish attention span

Tools of the trade: Any timer, pen, paper

Developed in the 1980s by famous consultant Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is inarguably one of the most renowned productivity management tools out there.

Simply put, the Pomodoro Technique is this: For 25 minutes, you’ll do nothing but the task at hand before taking a short break.

To elaborate, these are the guidelines written by Cirillo in his original Pomodoro Technique manifesto:

  1. Pick a task you need to do
  2. Set the timer for 25 minutes (also called a pomodoro)
  3. Work on nothing but the task you picked until the timer rings
  4. After the timer rings, put a check mark on a piece of paper
  5. Take a short break, ideally up to five minutes only
  6. When you’ve completed four pomodoros, give yourself a rest for up to 30-minutes

Pretty easy, right? You don’t need to read buzzwords-littered books just to enhance your productivity. You can also pair this with your standard to-do lists so you can see how many pomodoros you’ve spent on a certain task. This will further allow you to further tailor the way you approach your activities.

The cycles of breaks in the technique also have their purpose. Usually, the short bursts of the five-minute break are good to give your mind time to breathe. Meanwhile, the longer resting period is in place to allow you to take in new information and recompose yourself for the next cycle of pomodoros.

The Pomodoro Technique is it demands your full and undivided attention while you’re currently in a 25-minute time block. If you remember a task while you’re in a pomodoro cycle, just jot it down so you can get back to it later. You can assimilate it to your to-do list during your break. Whatever happens, stick to the routine religiously.

You can use a number of Pomodoro Technique tools on your desktop or smartphone, with some apps even have a dedicated to-do list for your current tasks. You can even use the available tools you have like a phone timer and a notetaking program and you’re set. Or you can go old school and buy a tomato-shaped egg timer. After all, that is where the name came from.

Is there a downside to this method? For some people, the 25-minute sprints might be too short, especially for people who take their sweet time to warm up. A short productivity time block followed by a break can break someone’s momentum. Fortunately, we have other techniques for you in the article.

(Read: Productivity-Boosting Apps Every Working Adult Needs Right Now)

2. 5217

Ideal for: People who can hold their breaths longer under a sea of tasks

Tools of the trade: Any timer, pen, paper

The Pomodoro Technique may be useful to some, but as we pointed out earlier, the 25-minute work cycle may be too short for people who take advantage of their productivity inertia. For those who have longer bursts of creativity, the 5217 method will suit you.

The 5217 is as simple as this: you have a 52-minute productivity period where you put all your focus on your current task followed by 17 minutes of break.

Unlike the 25-minute blocks of Pomodoro where the intervals seem arbitrary, the 5217 method is based on research.

Based on an analysis done from data provided by productivity app DeskTime, researchers have concluded that the key to effective time management is taking effective breaks. Employees who excel don’t do their tasks for the entire eight hours. According to them, working smarter paired with frequent breaks is the best way to hack down daily tasks. And they’ve concluded that the 5217 technique works best for the most efficient workers.

Similar to the Pomodoro Technique, 5217 exploits the sprints of productivity a person experiences when working. In addition, the said technique also demands your total dedication during the said bursts of activity. The longer breaks allow you to have a time off that will satiate your itch to either check your Facebook or do something else while working.

In fact, the researchers have also said that people with bosses that watch their employees like a hawk can even reduce the number minutes they spend on breaks. However, the goal remains the same: every hour, you need to step away from your computer and do something to refresh your mind.

For a more advanced way of integrating 5217 to your system, you can download the 5217 app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play using your smartphone. The application can even automatically put your phone to do-not-disturb mode so you can ignore all messages that will tempt you to distraction.

3. Habitica

Ideal for: Freaks and geeks who want to turn their productivity into a game

Tools of the trade: Habitica website (desktop), Habitica app (smartphone)

Gamification is not new; in fact, it’s a common technique used by teachers, HR officers, and entrepreneur to make their boring activities seem fun. However, engagement quickly dies down because they neither have the interface that keeps people’s attention for a long time nor they can make it look fun and exciting to participants.

Fortunately, Habitica is neither of them. The productivity management solution uses video game mechanics to help you keep up with your tasks. Unlike previously mentioned programs where people can take advantage of creative bursts, Habitica allows you to go on your daily routine however you want—provided that accomplish things so you can gain experience and in-game currency.

To start your very own role-playing game, create an account and choose how your character will look like. Once you’ve set up your Habitica account and created your avatar, you can see that your character account is divided into four columns:

  • Habits – like real life, these tasks can either be good or bad. You can set up positive and negative habits to your character. Good habits will reward you with experience and bad ones will decrease your health points. The more difficult the habits are, the more experience points and gold you get—or hit points taken if it is a bad one.
  • Dailies – this is the column where you integrate tasks you want to do on a regular basis. Whether you want to make jogging a daily activity or a trip to your family a weekly one, you can level up your character by following these religiously. Failing to complete dailies will result in loss of health.
  • To-dos – pretty much like dailies, activities under to-dos are tasks you need to do yet not bound by a tight schedule. This means you can do them at your own pace and they won’t decrease your hit points if not unchecked soon. Completed items under to-dos will give you gold and experience points and a chance for an item drop.
  • Rewards – you can treat yourself or your character with rewards, which will cost you gold. You can either buy your character equipment for better stats or create custom rewards you can tag with real-life activities. With rewards, you can reinforce good habits and keep your head in the game.

By doing the following activities, you can level up your character, customize its attributes, buy equipment for better stats, and pick character classes to make your grind more fun. The higher your level is, the more features will be available to you such as character classes, pets, and better items.

In the world of Habitica, you’re not alone. You can form parties with friends so you can support one another in each player’s tasks and have some form of accountability with others. You can also join guilds where you can join others who have similar interests with you and keep your motivation at peak performance. Finally, you can also join community challenges where you can join other players to collectively accomplish goals.

Habitica may be fun, but the only downside of the game is the learning curve involved in mastering the game. Although it takes a while to learn the mechanics of the game itself and integrate it with your real-life challenges, you are bound to have so much fun and it can keep you on your toes as you and your character grow up together.

(Read: Telecommuting Act: House Approves ‘Work-From-Home’ Bill On Final Reading)

4. Getting Things Done

Ideal for: Task hackers who need to break down their objectives into bite-sized pieces

Tools of the trade: Whatever productivity tool that suits you best

Based on the bestselling book by David Allen, Getting Things Done (GTD) is a productivity method that can seem overwhelming from a distance. However, just like the technique he advocates, you can understand this easily by hacking your objectives into concrete and actionable activities.

In a nutshell, GTD works like this: you list down all your objectives to remove them from your head, allowing you to free up some cognitive load so you can just put your mind in accomplishing something. However, it’s so much bigger than that. Let’s break it down.

To get things done the way he does it, you need to do follow these five methods:

  1. Capture all the things you need to accomplish. A daily task? Write it down. A booking you need to schedule two weeks later? Put it on the list. Family dinner? Put it on paper. Doesn’t matter how you jot it down. What matters is it’s on paper, which means you have to accomplish it.
  2. Clarify what you need to accomplish. If your goal seems too vague, chances are it is—and you need to break it down into concrete goals that you can do. Do you need to delegate it? Are you waiting for someone’s input to complete it? Is it time bound? Flesh out the details of your pending activity.
  3. Organize these tasks. Initially, you want to divide these into proper buckets such as priority and category. Is it an urgent paper for your master’s degree due next week? Do you need to visit the tailor on Monday for a gown fitting? Make sure the urgency and nature of these objectives are clear—and list them down.
  4. Reflect on your list of activities. Now that the activities are clearer than before, you can see which one demands your attention first. In addition, you can also see if there are tasks there that are still pretty unclear on how you’ll tackle them. This is the part where you further fine-tune your to-do list
  5. Engage these objectives and clear them. When you’ve reached this far, you now know which tasks have the highest priority. Since you’ve figured them out now, you can see what to work on, how to accomplish it, and when to do it.

The beauty of GTD is that it follows a rigid method of sorting your to-dos yet it is flexible enough to be adapted to any system you want. You can use a simple notepad, Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, bullet journal, a simple planner—basically, anything that will allow you to write down your tasks. Hell, you can even write it on the wall, if you want. You can even categorize your emails this way.

Like Habitica, GTD demands to be studied so you can flawlessly turn your random chunks of objectives into actionable goals. However, this system may be too boring because of its no-nonsense approach to productivity.

Despite having their own systems, you can mix and match or even remix these to suit your needs. At the end of the day, what matters more is that you can do your goals with flying colors over trying to look busy only to deliver mediocre results. Don’t be productive for its own sake.