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Two secrets to mastering productivity

We all have short- and long-term goals defined for ourselves. And we may want to get the desired results as soon as possible.

What is productivity?

Productivity is a term that is widely misinterpreted. Productivity can be defined at various levels and for the scope of this article, we are trying to understand the dynamics of personal productivity (which can help in the realization of our personal and professional goals). Let us imagine a highly productive person. What do you picture this person as?

If you picture a person that is always busy as highly productive, then you have a wrong notion of personal productivity. Productivity is not a measure of the mere output of an individual over a period of time. It is the “relevant” output of that individual over a defined period of time. What do we mean by relevant output? Productivity should be associated with a goal. If a person can achieve a goal X in a lesser amount of time by focusing on getting the right things done (relevant output), then that person can be called productive. On the contrary, a person who is busy all the time might have a lot of output but there is a possibility that the overall progress with respect to the goal is too slow. All good?

We now understand what productivity is and what it is not. Let’s now have a look at a few effective techniques (and secrets) to increase one’s productivity.

1. Pareto Principle:

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So, according to the Pareto principle, 80% of your results are being driven by 20% of your efforts. Adopting the 80/20 mindset to plan your day(s) can change your life.

Before starting your day, enlist all your tasks (work-related and personal) for the day. Identify and prioritize the ones that will have the most impact on the progress of your deliverable (or personal goal). If you find yourself struggling with this classification, you can spend some time to evaluate their importance by discussing the tasks with your stakeholders (or your mentor or friends for personal goals). Once you solidify the order of the tasks, you are already 50% more productive. You might be thinking that this is some extra work. However, this one task before getting started for the day goes a long way in setting you up on the right path towards your goals.

· It will also help to reduce your stress: No matter how productive we get, we humans have a limited capacity of working. We start to feel overwhelmed (or worse, burned-out) after working on a task for some time. It would, therefore, be effective to hone in on the tasks that have a real impact on our goals and get more done with less effort.

· State of flow and higher engagement: When you are completely assured of the fact that the task you are working on is a key contributor to the goal under consideration, you tend to be completely focused on it. This allows you to reach a state of flow (a state in which you lose track of time because you enjoy doing the task and are completely engaged in it) and thoroughly enjoy completing the task. This leads to a higher level of satisfaction at the end of the day.

If you have read this far (Thank you), you have now established the foundation of choosing the right tasks in the right order. The next step is the completion of the tasks undertaken. This is where the Pomodoro technique comes into the picture.

2. Pomodoro technique:

I am sure you will be able to relate if I describe a day at work, where we read emails, attend a few calls, take a few tea/ coffee breaks and before we can get to the actual work for the day, it is already the end of our working hours. If you want to avoid that feeling of being busy but not productive, the Pomodoro technique is the answer that you are seeking.

The Pomodoro technique is very simple.

1. Choose the task at your hand (The task you pick will be the output of the Pareto principle discussed above).

2. Remove all the distractions in the vicinity (This can include choosing the right place to focus and shutting yourself from all the sources of distraction. Keep your phone in another room or lock it in the drawer.)

3. Set the timer for 25 minutes (This time slot can increase as your focus window increases with the regular use of the technique). Start the task and focus on it with undivided attention for the next 25 minutes. Promise yourself to not stop at any cost. You might think that 25 minutes is too little to even complete a small chunk of any task but when you focus on it without any distractions, this time slot can get a lot done.

4. Take a break for 5 minutes.

5. 25 minutes of a subtask (of the task) + 5 minutes of break= 1 Pomodoro. Continue steps 1–4 until the task is completed. You can take longer breaks (say 10 minutes) after 3 Pomodoros.

The above steps are not set in stone and you can customize the technique by tweaking the slots. The idea to keep in mind is to focus on a task without any distractions for a fixed period of time (at least 25 minutes) and take short breaks in between to allow your brain to reset its focus span.

There are apps (links below) that can help you to achieve this and eventually, this will become a habit.

Pareto (to enlist and prioritize your tasks) + Pomodoro (to complete the tasks) is a secret trick to boost your personal and professional productivity. It will change the way you think about the 24 hours in a day. I know that this might seem like a big hurdle in the beginning but a simple switch to this technique will yield a result-oriented mindset in no time. Consequently, you will get better control of your day and find some time to take up more tasks (that create an impact). You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish in a day and exceeding your own expectations would be a blessing, wouldn’t it? (I have tried this myself and witnessed the difference).

References and Further Resources:

1. Link to apps for Pomodoro technique:

2. My article on a similar concept:




With thanks - this article was written by Ketaki Vaidya.

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