A simple strategy to increase productivity

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Struggle with organisation and productivity? I’ve always thought of myself as a REALLY organised person but when I left my job to go freelance I found my to do list getting longer and longer and the amount of tasks I was doing getting less and less. It’s a pretty stressful situation when you feel like everything’s getting away from you, especially if you’re a control freak like me!

I then came across Tuts+ (which is amazing by the way!) and found not only does it have tutorials for things like coding and design but almost everything I could think of that I’d ever want to learn, including increasing productivity. They had a series called Build Your Own Productivity System, and I’d strongly recommend reading the whole series if you’re looking to improve organisation and productivity.

The key system that I now use for myself is the Eisenhower Matrix, based on a quote by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.

The idea is you organise your tasks into 4 separate categories:

1. Urgent and Important
2. Urgent but Not Important
3. Important but Not Urgent
4. Neither Urgent Nor Important

I’ve made a printable to do list as April’s Amber Phillips Design Freebie, that you can download here. There’s a full colour one or a black and white one to save using too much ink. You could print the full colour one and laminate it so you can write on and wipe off as you go.

Now go through your to do list and categorise each task. Does it have a deadline? Is the deadline nearby? Is it important to you personally?

Urgent and important – it has a specific deadline and is important to you.

Urgent but not important – it has a specific deadline but isn’t personally important to you right now.

Important but not urgent – it matters to you but there’s not a deadline.

Neither urgent nor important – why is it on your to do list? Could it become important or urgent in future? If yes, maybe write it down on a separate to do list to review later or keep it in that box to do when/if you have time after the other tasks this week. If it’s not really urgent or important at all, can you cross it off?

Clear the urgent and important tasks first and work your way through. You’ll find that there’s suddenly a lot less that you need to do RIGHT NOW, and it’s split into much more manageable chunks. Remember you’re only human and ideally you should only set a maximum of three priority must-be-done-today-or-else tasks a day. If you can manage more than that after you’ve done those three then great! Also, remember that a to do list is never empty.

Review your to do list weekly (or more often if you need to at first) to make sure everything is in the right category and to assess new tasks and new deadlines. I know that when new tasks come in I often assign them without thinking too much about the importance or urgency, so I like to review my to do list often to make sure I’m thinking about tasks in a really productive way.

This is just a quick fix for your to do list but might not necessarily work for you. Adapt it as you go and read the whole productivity series on Tuts+ for various different methods and information.

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