How do you get to be super productive?

Productivity – my theme so far for the year!

2015 is not quite a month old yet and I’m wondering how you’re getting on? It’s the coldest, darkest time of the year, a time when all you want to do of a morning is huddle under your duvet cover!

Girl in bed under duvet
Photo Credit: Richards

But Iʼve started the year with a lot on my “to do” list as well as a few time sensitive projects. What I really wish for is more time. Time to do less skimming of the surface and more time to spend doing the things that inspire me most.

Thatʼs got me thinking – how can I gain more time? Or what can I do to create more time for the tasks that inspire me most?

As luck would have it, when you’re looking for something it invariably finds you first.

I stumbled upon a concept that has been promoted by Stephen Covey, he of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” fame.

It’s all about how to prioritise and goes something like this.

Imagine a big empty fish tank in which you need to add some items  – sand, pebbles, small rocks and big rocks. If you start with the smaller items and finish with the big rocks you’ll find they won’t fit.

However, if you start by adding the big rocks first to the tank then the other items all seem to fit in more comfortably around the big rocks. The small pebbles fill the spaces as does the sand.

The analogy here is that the “big rocks” represents the important things you need to do. You often feel drawn to spend time on the little things meaning thereʼs no room for the bigger items on your agenda. If you did the big things first then the rest would simply fall in to place.

Makes sense! I’ve been trying this technique out over this last week or so. It’s been hard not to check FaceBook when I’m having my breakfast. Plus I’ve avoided opening emails when I initially sit at my desk. Devoid of a few external distractions I’ve focused on the “big rocks”.  This has helped me to recognise the amount of time I often fritter away on inconsequential stuff.

Iʼve heard of other systems that help people plan and manage their time.

One way I like to track time is a little app called Paymo. At the end of a week or a month I can see where I’ve directed my energy. I know several of my clients whoʼve used this to get an eagleʼs view of where their time goes too – very revealing.

Then Iʼve heard about the 90 minute rule or the 60:60:30 rule or the Pomodoro Technique.

Iʼve used each one and which one depends on how Iʼm feeling or what Iʼm most drawn to. But with the 90 minute rule, I devote an hour and a half to work on the most important thing for me that day. During this time I donʼt answer calls or texts and I even have a sign for my front door that keeps unexpected visitors at bay until Iʼm done.

The 60:60:30 rule is where you do x 2 lots of 60 minutes and then go and do something for 30 minutes that helps you unwind. Whether thatʼs a tea break, some gentle stretching or some fresh air. Oh, and thereʼs one thing I forgot to mention after 55 minutes you take a 5 minute break. I usually set my phone alarm and that keeps me on track.

Finally there’s the Pomodoro Technique which is named after a tomato shaped kitchen timer.


This method breaks your work time into 25 minutes segments plus some short breaks.

I donʼt think it matter which system you use provided you stick with it consistently. And if you do, Iʼm sure that youʼll find you are more engaged, more energised and enjoy a lot more ease both in your work and personal life.