Now that many of us are working from home, we’re facing new challenges such as trying to get our work done whilst juggling childcare or other caring responsibilities. Even working in a new environment can unsettle your usual focus.
Faced with this new normal, it’s a good time to think about productivity techniques that can help you boost your concentration and get things ticked off your to-do list.
It’s impossible to operate at 100% throughout the day. Even the most energetic, dynamic and dedicated person can’t be giving it their all, constantly, throughout the day.
Experts agree that the optimum concentration span for the human brain is around 50 minutes, so planning your work schedule in 50-minute blocks and interspersing these with short breaks will allow you to perform more effectively and efficiently throughout the day.
Everyone has different techniques for managing their workload. In times of change like the coronavirus outbreak, this may lead to additional projects and stress, so it’s a good time to think about how to maintain balance by prioritising your tasks.
Eat the frog
This comical-sounding technique refers to tackling the job that you fear the most first. Mark Twain coined the original phrase: ‘If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.’
Author Brian Tracy developed the idea into a book in which the central concept is based around doing your worst task first, as it’s the one likely to cause most procrastination.
Practise the four Ds
The four Ds is a task management system that allows you to keep on top of your to-do list. It’s particularly helpful as an email management technique.
Do – when faced with a task that’s quick to complete and important, go ahead and do it. Many tasks can be progressed or dealt with in two minutes.
Delete – some requests can be deleted as soon as they arrive.
Delegate – can you pass a task on to someone else to carry out? If so, ask someone else to take the job on and complete it for you.
Defer – sometimes you simply need to mull something over. A decision might not be possible immediately, and it’s fine to wait a while before acting.
The Pomodoro technique is a method for managing your time. Originally created by software developer Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro system encourages you to break your tasks into 25-minute intervals.
At the end of every timed interval, you take a short break, recharging your brain in preparation for the next Pomodoro. Every four Pomodoros, take a longer break to boost productivity.
One of the most popular time management techniques, Pomodoro helps you stay on top of a busy, ever-changing workload by encouraging you to focus on a single task for a short yet intensive block of time.
US President Eisenhower is credited with developing this popular prioritisation technique, now known as the Eisenhower matrix. The idea is that by deciding how important and urgent each task is, you can see which tasks you should focus on first, delegate or put on hold.