There’s a multitude of productivity techniques out there, each with their own guidelines for daily planners and organizations. But how do you know which one is right for you? From the Pomodoro Technique to GTD and even the Chain Method popularized by Jerry Seinfeld, each school of thought takes a different approach to getting things done. If your daily planner and habits need a healthy dose of structure, we have a quiz that will help you choose the methodology that’s just right for you – and we threw in some added alternatives to the popular ones out there so you can find your own perfect mix.
The Right Productivity Method For Your Daily Planner
In our experience, productivity is an art just as much as it is a science. You need to put your daily planner to work in a way that speaks to your needs now as well as your goals in the future. Write down your answers to the questions below to see what method might work for you.
Take the quiz!
What most drives you to be productive?
A) Rewards and breaks
B) A sense of control over chaos
C) A sense of accomplishment and expertise
What’s typically your biggest distraction?
A) Emails, people and surfing the web
B) Stressing out about all the other stuff I’m not doing
C) Other priorities that pull me away for days/ weeks at a time
What best describes your daily work?
A) Continuously delivering small batches of work/ projects
B) An amorphous blend of work, personal, and family tasks that bleed into each other
C) A single set of skills/ crafts that I’m aiming to refine and improve
What’s typically your Seal of Hesitation (the thing that keeps you from starting)?
A) Feeling like there isn’t enough time
B) Not knowing where to start
C) Guilt of knowing I’ve already put it off for too long
How would you describe your productivity now?
A) Unable to focus on the task at hand
What do you hear yourself saying most often?
A) “Can someone shut the door? I’m trying to get some work done.”
B) “I can’t even remember all the things I have to do.”
C) “I used to work on this every day. Need to get back into the swing of things.”
Who do you envy the most?
A) The busy bee that manages to finish their task list every day.
B) The super-organized worker that knows when and where s/he needs to do everything.
C) The big-picture thinker that hones his craft over years of dedication.
What’s one superpower you wish you had?
A) To not be distracted every five minutes.
B) Never forget anything important again.
C) To never lose sight of my larger goals.
“Having a very detailed daily planner makes me feel ____”:
Tally up your results and see which responses you chose the most to find out what your productivity method is…
Mostly A’s: Pomodoro Technique for the focus-challenged
You can get things done, but your life is filled with distractions that keep you from meaningful focus. You need a method that will help you fit in bursts of productivity while giving you enough flexibility to handle unexpected interruptions. The Pomodoro Technique is comprised of 25-minute uninterrupted working streaks, interspersed with short breaks. Each work/ break streak (or Pomodoro) is marked on a piece of paper and after 4 Pomodoros are completed, you’re able to take a longer break. The idea is that 25-minute chunks of time are enough to power through significant work while staving off distractions. Over the course of a day, Pomdoros will start to add up and you’ll be able to achieve a decent amount of work while taking frequent breaks to the coffee machine or your Twitter page. But keep in mind that a Pomodoro is a sacred unit of time. As Alan Henry of Lifehacker points out, “…if you’re distracted part-way by a coworker, meeting, or emergency, you either have to end the Pomodoro there (saving your work and starting a new one later), or you have to postpone the distraction until the Pomodoro is complete.”
Any.do Tip: Make a “Break” list in your Any.do daily planner and keep track of all the little non-Pomodoro things that you’ll need to do so they won’t distract you during your 25 minutes of work.
Complementary Method – Austin Kleon’s Analog/ Digital Workspaces: Austin Keon is the wildly popular author of Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work!, and recently shared his analog/ digital desk setup with From The Desk Of…. “I have two desks in my office — one’s “analog” and one’s “digital.” The analog desk has nothing but markers, pens, pencils, paper, and newspaper. Nothing electronic is allowed on the desk — this is how I keep myself off Twitter, etc. This is where most of my work is born. The digital desk has my laptop, my monitor, my scanner, my Wacom tablet, and a MIDI keyboard controller for if I want to record any music. (Like a lot of writers, I’m a wannabe musician.) This is where I edit, publish, etc.” Try creating multiple workspaces for specific needs.
Extra Add On – Gretchen Rubin’s Power Hour: Gretchen Rubin is the founder and author of The Happiness Project, and one of our favorite experts on happiness and the power of habits. Gretchen uses what she calls a Power Hour to take care of all the “small, mildly unpleasant tasks” that nag at the back of her mind and slowly drain away from her mental energy. These are non-urgent tasks that get put off and rescheduled over and over again because there’s always something else that takes priority – tasks like laundry, paying the gas bill, finding a new plumber, etc. In your daily planner, schedule a weekly power hour where all of these small, disparate tasks are taken care of in one fell swoop. “With this hour, I’d tackle only tasks where I had no deadline, no accountability, no pressure—because these were the tasks that weren’t getting addressed.”
Mostly B’s: GTD (Getting Things Done) for organizational nirvana
The emotional cost of never knowing what’s being forgotten or overlooked on your task list is causing you to work sub-optimally. It’s easy to slip into a disorganized work pattern without realizing just how much energy you’re losing. GTD, or Getting Things Done, stresses organization, prioritization, and perspective so you stop leaking valuable energy and mental space. For many, the sheer lack of transparency into their to-do’s is anxiety-inducing. This productivity methodology helps you structure tasks and projects by the steps that need to be taken and the priority by which they should be addressed. It effectively adds a method to your madness so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Everything that needs to be taken care of is recorded and sorted in a bottom-up methodology – controlling the chaos of day-to-day tasks so you’re better equipped to handle larger goals on the horizon. GTD guides you to create actionable lists in your daily planner, develop beneficial task review habits, and tackle projects step by step.
Daily Inspirations – Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits: Zen Habits is a daily blog and email newsletter about “finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives,” with a huge global following. Leo Babauta shares his experiences in mindfulness and living a more fulfilling life. He also happens to be a dedicated GTD follower and has numerous blog posts that provide insight and depth into the framework that has become a way of life for so many people. If your daily planner needs a boost of inspiration, we highly recommend his blog.
Mostly C’s: Seinfeld Chain Method for big dreamers who hold themselves back
You may have many goals, but you have a singular drive to accomplish something grand. That takes commitment and although you’re familiar with the 10,000-hour rule, you still find it hard to overcome your own procrastination. The Seinfeld Strategy is lauded by creatives who find it to be a perfect antidote to procrastination without a huge amount of upfront pressure. If your work revolves around a craft, a high-level skill, or you have major life and career goals that you feel are too often sidelined by the mundane tasks that clutter your daily planner, then this might be the perfect solution for you. Pick something that matters to you and spend time every day either doing practicing or developing it. It’s all about creating a chain of daily successes and keeping track of them. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.” It may sound simple, but the results can be profound.
Any.do Tip: Set a recurring daily reminder in your Any.do daily planner app to make sure you never break a day in the chain.
Another Approach – Marc Andreessen’s Anti-ToDo List: Andreessen’s methodology, just like the Seinfeld Chain, is about gaining a deep sense of accomplishment over time by tracking what you have done rather than what you haven’t. Using index cards instead of the traditional daily planner, the famed entrepreneur spends a few moments every night writing 3-5 things that need to be done the next day on an index card. Then the next day, he writes down his significant accomplishments on the back of the same card. “And then at the end of the day, before you prepare tomorrow’s 3×5 card, take a look at today’s card and its Anti-Todo list and marvel at all the things you actually got done that day.”
Magic In Numbers – The 1-3-5 Rule: The 1-3-5 rule is beautiful in its simplicity. In this daily planner ritual, you declare Today I will accomplish 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 small things. It’s a shortcut to meaningful prioritization and can serve as a happy medium between GTD and the Seinfeld Chain. As Drake Baer says in Fast Company, “…this defuses the groggy tension of early morning decision making, which we all suck at.”