You probably didn’t go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — but an MIT can help you be more productive.
behind Most Important Tasks is that any given to-do list has some tasks that
are more important than others. If you focus on simply checking off to-do list
items, you’ll end up with a mix of important and less important tasks
exposes you to the potential for procrastination — it’s easy to spend the whole
day checking off easy, less important to-dos instead of buckling down on the
spend a few minutes at the beginning of your day to choose 1–3 MITs — the
things that, no matter what, you need to finish by the end of the day.
renewed focus on what’s important, it’s easier to create a meaningful to-do
list — make sure the important things get done.
Earnest of Whole Life Productivity had this to say on the importance of
prioritization as a productivity habit:
“Let me say
that I distinguish between efficient and effective, but that both are needed
for peak productivity. Efficient is doing things right and effective is doing
the right things. So the most productive people work on the high value tasks,
making sure that how they are doing those tasks is the best way.
believe that the most productive people are able to discern which are the high
value tasks, and are able to either let the others go or delegate them. It’s
not a crazy rush to get everything done, because they recognize that they can’t
get everything done.”
Cultivate deep work
tip – cultivate deep work (even if it means saying no more often)
are just hard. There’s no substitute for deep work.
has a few daily to-dos that could be almost be knocked out while sleeping.
These are the tasks that you need podcasts to get through — if anything,
they’re hard to get yourself to do because they’re not especially interesting.
At the same
time, some tasks are just difficult. You can’t multitask your way to finishing
them. You need to devote serious time and mental effort to knocking them out of
the park. These tasks are called “deep work.”
wrote about this type of work in his bestselling book, Deep Work: Rules for
Focused Success in a Distracted World. Newport argues that the skill of intense
focus is increasingly rare—and that those who can master it are at an enormous
A few of
Newport’s recommendations to cultivate deep work are:
deep work: Plan deep work into your schedule at a similar time every day,
probably in the morning. Having a regular time to do deep work helps you make
it a habit.
It sounds counterintuitive to call being bored a productive habit, but being
comfortable with boredom is important. Deep work isn’t always enjoyable, and
boredom or frustration are what cause us to seek out distractions. Avoid using
social media for entertainment as much as possible, and get more comfortable
Be harder to
contact: Email and other distractions can be reduced by asking people who
contact you to do more work up front. Ask people to research their questions
before coming to you, and provide as much info as possible in their emails.
Same goes for you—spending time on communications instead of dashing off a
quick email can minimize back and forth.
work habits: Do you work best in isolation? With periodic breaks? Are you
working around a hectic schedule? You don’t need to overhaul your entire
schedule—just set aside some time for deep work.
productive people have mastered the skill of deep work.
3. Keep a
distraction list to stay focused
tip – keep a distraction list, to jot down ideas you think of while you’re
social media, and a thousand little to-dos, it’s easy to get distracted when
you’re trying to be productive.
you’re trying to focus on deep work or just dealing with smaller tasks,
distractions are the bane of productivity. It’s hard to maintain efficient work
habits with distractions around.
method of reducing distractions is creating a “distraction list.”
habits for distraction
list — whether it’s a Google Doc or a physical piece of paper — nearby while
you’re working. Whenever a distracting thought pops up, write it down on the
list and get back to work.
technique, which is one of the secrets to the Pomodoro Technique, is powerful
because a lot of the time your distractions legitimately require attention.
If I’m doing
deep work and suddenly remember a bill that needs to be paid, or have an idea
for a new blog post, those are thoughts that deserve attention.
don’t deserve it right now.
arise during your work, jot them down. Once you reach a break in your work, you
can come back and either tackle them or add them to your larger to-do list.
the Eisenhower Matrix to identify long-term priorities
tip – use the Eisenhower Matrix to find your important but not urgent tasks
One of the
dangers of productivity is a focus on the short term. As management legend
Peter Drucker once said, “there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that
which should not be done at all.” When you study productivity habits, it’s easy
to fall into that trap.
On any given
work day, it’s easy to get caught up in things that seem important right now.
Eisenhower Matrix, used by Dwight Eisenhower to make decisions during his time
as a general, was popularized by Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly
Effective People. It helps you to quickly determine what you should work on and
what you should ignore.
To create an
Eisenhower Matrix, make a 2 x 2 square. On one axis, write “important” and “not
important.” On the other, “urgent” and “not urgent.”
MatrixSource: Develop Good Habits
your to-do list based on each task’s importance and urgency can help you
identify time-sinks that aren’t worth it.
spending most of your day doing things that are urgent but not important? Look
for ways to delegate, automate, or eliminate.
spending time on things that aren’t important or urgent? Ignore those things.
making time to work on things that are important but not urgent? If you’re like
most people, you could be spending more time in this quadrant. The Eisenhower
Matrix makes it easier to see what matters and what doesn’t.
the 80/20 rule
tip – use the 80/20 rule to focus your time on the most impactful tasks
to prioritize tasks comes from the 80/20 principle.
by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, the 80/20 rule (also called the Pareto
Principle) states that, in any pursuit, 80% of the results will come from 20%
of the efforts.
efficiency, highly productive people identify the most important 20% of their
work. Then, they look at ways to cut down the other 80% of their schedule, to
find more time for the things that make the biggest impact.
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