Like everyone who has ever been in business, you dream of one thing:  The 4 Hour Work Week.  Rolling over from your bed in Tahiti, checking your emails, and then going back to sleep.  Yet, here you are, 10 or 20 years later, still working 80 plus hours a week.  Chasing the same dream.  You’ve tried all the productivity hacks.  And yet…not much has changed.

Im not here to tell you I have the answer to all that ails you…but I do want to give you alternatives to the 6 most popular strategies out there, most of which I’m sure you’ve already tried.  If anything, you’ll be able to implement at least one strategy to help you gain a few hours a week back.  Maybe You Shouldn’t “Eat That Frog”…

  1. Maybe You Shouldn’t Eat That Frog…

The Eat the Frog concept, created by author Brian Tracy, is all about doing your most important task first each day, then filling in the rest of your day with tasks that aren’t as important. While I agree it is a good practice to do the most important thing first, the truth is we are all different.  Some are morning people, some afternoon, and some evening.  

So instead of doing it first thing in the morning, find the time of day when you’re creative juices are flowing and you feel most energized. That way you’ll be sure to give it your best effort and will truly be maximizing your time. Find the time of day that you’re most productive, and do your most important work then.

2. If You Want to Motivate Yourself to Get Started, Leave The Matrix…With Starting Easy and Working Up

The Stephen Covey Time Matrix method of classifying tasks by urgency and importance and doing them in that order can definitely work for some. But, if you’re like most people, you struggle to just get started.  And if the first thing you see are the pressure of high priority and high urgency tasks, you can easily be scared into procrastinating.

Try making and keeping a list of tiny to-dos that you can finish in just 10 minutes and run through them first. You’ll feel motivated by the win of knocking out a couple tasks quickly and ready to handle more serious work. Remember, the more you win, the more confident you feel to handle those larger tasks.

3. If The Clock Is Not Your Friend, Don’t Use The Pomodoro Technique…

The Pomodoro Technique involves working in 25-minute intervals with five-minute breaks in between. You might find that this gives you fantastic focus. But, what if most or all of your projects take you more than 25 minutes to complete?  You are setting yourself up for failure.

If you’re the type of person that likes to sit and finish a project from beginning to end, try implementing Time Blocking.  Time blocking allows you to block the time necessary for you to complete the task, regardless of the amount of time it takes you. You literally shut everything else off (emails, meetings, calls) until the task is complete.

4. The Better Way To Focus Is To Trade the “Don’t Do” List With Making a “Done” List

If you’ve ever tried to separate tasks out by whether you should do them or not, you know how difficult it can be sometimes to constantly be reminding yourself of what you “Don’t Do”.  But where is your reminder of the things you should be doing, the tasks you’re really good at?  How do you know what you should be spending your time on?

By writing down all the tasks you complete (creating a “Done” list), you see where your time goes. So, this method has two benefits: You can make better decisions when you have hard data on your work, and you’ll be motivated to keep at it when you can actually see your progress.

5. If You Want to Meet Deadlines, Trade the Schedule Everything Technique…With The Most Important Things

Having tried the “schedule everything” method, I understand the premise assigning all your tasks a certain day and time in your calendar to make sure you can fit it all in. The problem was that when there was no flexibility in the schedule, I would stress out and try and create more time where it didn’t exist.

My solution for this was simple.  Instead of trying to make it all fit and not allow for flexibility, I only fill my calendar in once a week. In other words, I keep a master list with all my to-dos (broken down into the smallest tasks possible). Then, I add the tasks to my calendar on a weekly basis. I find this regular review gives me more flexibility, allows for me to make sure the most important things get done first, but still lets me meet deadlines and stay on top of longer-term projects.

6. If You Want To Get More Done, Trade the Two-Minute Rule…With Batching

The two-minute rule encourages you to do any task that takes 120 seconds or less right away. That saves you the time of writing it down and gets it taken care of. But unfortunately, it also means that you never have time for bigger projects.  Being reactive to what needs to be done is a recipe for disaster.

Instead of reacting to things as soon as they pop up, jot them down and then later do a bunch at the same time. This prevents them from constantly interrupting your workflow, while still making sure everything gets done.  In other words…get more done by doing less.

There are many more ways to deal with the issues surrounding your productivity.  But lets be honest: Your to-do list will never go away.  But you can change how you deal with it.  Find the processes and systems that work best for you…and go be more productive!