There are dozens if not hundreds of established productivity systems. Each one focuses on various ways that people can manage their work. Many of these systems borrow elements from each other and some are more popular than others.
These systems come with a range of apps, software programmes and various supporting materials and books.
Although there’s no perfect productivity system, in this two-part blog post I discuss some of the more popular productivity methods.
Getting Things Done Developed by David Allen
Getting Things Done is one of the more popular personal productivity techniques. It’s an American system that’s been around for over ten years, although Allen describes the methodology as “old as dirt”. There are three books as well as a host of websites, podcasts and other online resources about this system.
GTD breaks goals and projects into a series of Next Actions and Outcomes which the user must track and put in a place that they regularly review. Adoptees affectionately described themselves as GTD-ers. Time magazine even described the first book about system as “the self-help business book of its time”.
- It is an established methodology that has been tried and tested by Fortune 500 companies.
- There are lots of online support and resources.
- It’s great for managing complex projects.
- It takes a bit of discipline to stick to GTD.
- You’ll need to read the books and familiarise yourself with the methodology.
- GTD isn’t as suited for creative work as it is for other types of work.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.
It essential involves breaking work down into manageable chunks of 25 minutes, which are timed. These blocks of work are separated by short breaks of three to five minutes. After four pomodori, the user takes a longer 15-30 minute break.
The user also records and tracks all their work using special tracking sheets.
- It’s suited for any task that requires continued focus.
- It’s flexible in that it can be applied to any project or task.
- It encourages tracking and metrics. These can be used to find weaknesses in one’s workflow.
- It lacks a means of tracking tasks that need to be completed by a certain time or date.
- It doesn’t really focus on actions, reviews or outcomes.
- Some environments aren’t suited to uninterrupted blocks of work e.g. a hospital, a shop.
Streaks AKA Don’t Break the Chain
Streaks is a simple productivity technique developed by Jerry Seinfeld.
Seinfeld came up with this technique after deciding that he needed to do one thing every day: write a joke. Each day he wrote a joke, he marked a large X on a yearly wall calendar. His idea was to build up a chain of Xs or streaks he felt reluctant to break. I’ve used this method extensively and blogged about it here.
- It supports those who want to make small habitual changes to their day.
- It’s a simple and effective productivity tool that you can learn and carry out immediately.
- It doesn’t meet the needs of those who need more complex tracking methods.
- It makes no allowances for those days when you can’t work or complete a task e.g. holidays, sick days, the weekends.
In part two, I will discuss the merits and weaknesses of Action Method, Personal Kanban and the Franklin Planner.