Top 7 Productivity Techniques – The Ones That Actually Work

SPOILER: you don’t need to take a spiritual trip to Tibet. Productivity techniques are like many things in life – the most obvious ones are also the most difficult to get.

The amazing thing about productivity techniques is that the ones who benefit the most from them are the authors of the books on productivity techniques – otherwise, we would’ve seen millions of billionaires and billions of millionaires walking around. Which is certainly not the case.

For example, one of the most popular books on productivity, David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” has sold over 1.6 million copies worldwide – and that’s just official numbers.

Has this book led to a million and a half successful, extremely productive people? You won’t find the stats of this kind anywhere, but our own guess would be “not really”.

Competition in businessDespite being a really great piece of work and a result of long, continuous research, this (and many other similar books) rely on the premise that you, the reader, are currently unable to be productive unless you learn these (truly unique and nowhere else to be found) techniques.

You’ve probably heard about them all:

  • the Pomodoro technique, which suggests you work in short, 25-minute bursts with 5-minute breaks between them

  • the Kanban method, which we mentioned in one of our previous articles on project management techniques
  • “Don’t Break the Chain” method, which relies on working out a habit after continuously achieving intermittent results day after day (they say, a habit is formed after 21 days of “not breaking the chain”)

Although each one of these productivity techniques is great and rather effective in their own right, you can simply bring them down to simple elements, which they all feature, albeit in a different combination and under a different angle.

This is what we are going to do in this article.

It All Starts In Your Head

I guess we all could agree on the idea that the only person stopping you from being 100% productive is you. There’s no need to blame your management, colleagues, environment, or a broken AC unit for that.

Another thought you might also support is that there are no unproductive people. We are all born equal and can achieve as much as we want – the “only” things you need to apply are hard work, patience, and never-ending passion for learning.

Therefore, it’s time to clear up any mess that might be in your head and set your mind straight.

Productivity Techniques – The Ones That Always Work

Technique 1. Have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

Although the person who coined this term in 1994 book “Built to Last”, Jim Collins, originally meant it for companies, having a BHAG for an individual is just as important.

BHAG is an ambitious, long-term goal that is hard to reach but tempting nevertheless. Here are some examples of BHAGs by famous brands:

  • Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.
  • SpaceX: Enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.
  • Volvo: By 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.

Can you come up with something as ambitious as these examples for your own project?

Of course, not everything we do in life requires a BHAG – some things just have to be done. But having a BHAG for some major beginnings really helps.

Technique 2. No Instant Gratification

You only get as much as you put into it.” Keith Richards (on how to learn the guitar)

Before you set on a long, adventurous path to reach your BHAG, you will have to realize one simple thing – great results never come easy and quickly. Therefore, you need to be prepared to work hard for days, weeks, months, or even years, depending on your goal.

It also won’t be easy – there will certainly be mistakes, mishaps, or even fails along the way. But you’ve got to know this – the result is ALWAYS worth it.

Here’s a great TED video about instant gratification and where it may lead you.

Technique 3. Split Big Tasks into Smaller Ones

Despite me begging you to fight instant gratification, you probably won’t succeed in this battle. Neither will I, or any other human for that matter – simply because the principle of instant gratification is hardwired into our brains.

However, we can exploit that fact and award ourselves with little victories every day – victories that will ultimately lead to the one big victory, our BHAG.

In order to do that, you need to split the major goal into several intermittent goals, and those intermittent goals into tasks, and those tasks into sub-tasks. As long as the smallest tasks are not overtly ridiculous, it works.

The logic is simple – every completed task, no matter how small it is, gives a sense of (often enormous) satisfaction/gratification + you realize that you’ve just gotten a bit closer to the main goal.

Wonderful things will start to happen when you get halfway through – you simply won’t be able to give up because by that time you will have invested so much time and effort that your mind will simply not allow you to do it (that famous Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain technique”).

Needless to say, you are going to need a tool to keep track of time.

If we’re talking about tracking time for the tasks you do on your PC, Mac, or laptop, one of the best options is Screenshot Monitor. This app allows you to track your time effortlessly and switch between different projects. If your company is not using SSM, you can easily upload it for free from here and start tracking your time privately.

Technique 4. Develop Routines

You can have several ongoing projects at a time, not to mention your private life. In order to keep track of your progress, try to develop a special routine to kickstart your day and get yourself in the right mood.

Follow that routine rigorously.

Technique 5. Prioritize Tasks

Here’s a fairly simple approach to prioritizing tasks developed by Brian Tracy.

During the process of planning your tasks for the day/week/month, prioritize them by assigning the following letters:

  • A – must-do. If you don’t do these things, your ongoing project will fail miserably
  • B – important. You may get minor negative consequences if you don’t do them
  • C – would be nice to do. These are your everyday, common tasks that can always be postponed if necessary
  • D – delegate. These are the tasks you should delegate to someone else in order to get the weight off your shoulders
  • E – eliminate. Cross out these tasks to allow yourself more time for the A, B, C, and D tasks.

Needless to say, you can’t proceed to a “B” task unless your “A” tasks are fully completed, and so on.

Technique 6. Always Find Time to Rest. Don’t Force It

Not everything is a matter of life or death. If you feel like the work you’re doing at the moment is not going all that great, just give yourself a break. Heavens won’t come down and burst into flames if you just slack around for 20-30 minutes.

After all, genuine inspiration and passion are what really matters.

Technique 7. Keep the Score

At the end of each day, week, month, or any period you deem significant, take some time to sit down and get your results together. What has been done, what is yet to be done, and what can be changed due to the incoming factors.

This will allow you to see how fast and accurate your pace is, and introduce changes when they are needed.


Thanks for making to the end of today’s “Top 7 Productivity Techniques – The Ones That Actually Work” article! We hope you’ve learned something you could use in your everyday life to become more productive, efficient, and all-round successful person.