Reward yourself, track your time, try the Pomodoro technique: 24 classic productivity tips

23 November 2015 -


Which daily routines and tips help you to be more productive? We recently invited readers of Insights and Professional Manager to put forward suggestions, and they came up with some crackers…

Professional Manager and Insights readers


Here are 10 commandments for boosting productivity from Andrea Close who runs her own business providing “leadership development to improve communication and interpersonal relationships”:

  1. Have a visual planner so you can see key dates and important deadlines.
  2. Don’t add items to a to-do list that you could do quicker than the time it takes you to write them down.
  3. Be ruthless with all digital media, delete what doesn’t interest, have folders and categorise what does. Flag anything that needs to be actioned. Unsubscribe to mails that are no longer of relevance.
  4. If you find yourself procrastinating over something, getting started on a piece of writing or some admin. Use a timer (phone or kitchen one) and make yourself work on that task for five minutes. You will be surprised at what you get done and often this is enough to get over the writer’s block or start something.
  5. When you’re taking a break, make sure it truly is a break. No scanning emails or Facebook on your phone. Get up go outside or even just for a walk around the building. If you are having lunch make sure to take it away from your desk.
  6. Drink plenty of water and have healthy snacks. The brain uses more energy than any other part of our body so make sure you fuel it well.
  7. If you have had a particularly productive day or couple of hours, reward yourself, and for the important things make sure it is something you can keep as an anchor to remind you what you can achieve.
  8. At the end of each day write down what you have completed as sometimes things come up you hadn’t planned. We can often beat ourselves up for an unfinished to-do list, but it didn’t take into account that you helped a colleague or sorted out a customer issue that would have caused more problems if left.
  9. Be aware of your most productive times and use these for the more complex stuff.
  10. Don’t be afraid to delegate or push back, ask yourself, is this really important, will it make a difference to me achieving my targets?
Andrea Close 


And here’s frontline productivity-boosting advice from Sarah Bassett, people development consultant at Seetec, which provides government-funded Welfare to Work and skills training programmes:

  • Focus on how great things will be once the task is done. Don’t focus how much you hate doing the task – that’s a demotivation. Break up tasks that you don’t like doing into very small packages.
  • And remember that your team’s performance can be enhanced by allowing them to have uninterrupted flow. Help your employees to reach flow by removing obstacles to productivity. These may include emails, telephone calls and meetings. Suggest that your employee have certain time slots throughout the day to read and reply to emails, and turn off their devices when they’re not expecting any urgent calls. 
  • And the best way to manage your time is to track it. If you think you’re being organised but sometimes have no idea where the day’s gone, try keeping a log.

You could increase your daily productivity by performing the following steps:

  1. Break your work into categories such as administrative work, personal growth and core job duties. You’ll find it much easier to keep track of every task you are faced with.
  2. Carry a schedule for a week to record all your thoughts, conversations and activities. This will help you to realise how much you get done over a five-day period. The exercise will highlight how much time is spent producing results, and how much time is wasted on conversations.
  3. Start your day with a time plan. Use the first 30 minutes of the day to say hi to colleagues, make your drink and schedule this time plan, so by 9am you are ready and know what you are going to achieve for the rest of the day. 
  4. Assign time to any activity or conversation that’s important to your success. If you find your to-do list is forever growing, use an appointment book to schedule appointments with yourself and create time blocks for high-priority tasks. This will only work if you have the discipline to keep to these appointments. 
  5. Try logging your work as “short-term”, “long-term” or “urgent tasks; or allocate tasks with high, medium and low priority. You’ll find it easier to see which tasks take you how long to complete.
  6. Remember to schedule time for interruptions – you will naturally need to take breaks away from the computer, and will have conversations with other members of staff. 
  7. For tasks you struggle with, take five minutes to decide what result you want to attain. This will help you know what success looks like before you start. You can take five minutes after each task to determine whether your desired result was achieved. If not, work out what was missing, and how you will go about completing the next task to reach your achievement. 
  8. Block out other distractions, such as your personal mobile, Facebook and other forms of social media, unless you need these tools to generate business. Save these distractions for your lunch break.  
  9. 20% of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80% of your results. Remember, it’s impossible to get everything done. Therefore, with an efficient weekly schedule, you should start to be more realistic towards your end goals, and see increased productivity.
  10. Finally, try the Pomodoro Technique. This was invented by the 1990s developer, entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo used a tomato-shaped “Pomodoro” timer to track his work as a university student. Choose a task to be completed – such as cleaning the kitchen. Set a timer for a set amount of time, say, 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes have passed, have a short break. This will mean during the 25 minutes you have completely focused your attention on the task. This technique helps you to manage distractions as it helps you to log your distractions and order them according to priority levels. 
Sarah Bassett 


 And finally, this gem of an insight from Erica Martin:

Employers need to value their employees and tune into their needs so productivity doesn't suffer. There must also be increased flexibility in working conditions. As a full-time working mother, I have missed most of my children's milestones and now that I look back, I cannot help but wonder if it was all worth it.

In a new era we must provide new solutions. Workers do best when they feel valued. In the old days, flagship factories provided lodgings, schools, pools and other amenities so employees' needs were met and workers felt looked after.

Nowadays employees may struggle as a single-parent unit, may have more than one job or may need to devote time to the care of children or elderly family, so employers need to reassess and focus on more flexible conditions.

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