Tools and Techniques for Increasing Productivity

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We’re all hit by a constant barrage of apps, techniques, tips, and more promising to help us be more productive and healthier. We see it all the time, “This will shave those last 20 pounds”1 or “This will revolutionize your ability to do things”2. And it’s true some of these methods and techniques can and will help you if you stick with them.

Over the past year I’ve been working hard to find the techniques and tools that helped me make 2014 my most productive year yet. How productive? I’ve revamped my site, trained for a half marathon, released two plugins on WordPress.org3, built a website for a friend, quit training for a marathon4, put 40+ hours into learning French, and that’s just my free time since September.

Getting Things Started

The thing that really kick started my productivity was implementing dailies5.

The concept behind dailies is to pick 3-5 tasks you want to work on for 15-30 minutes each day. This makes the task of doing these daily activities much less daunting. Overtime you’ll probably start spending more time than your goal on the tasks too. It is a great method for getting started on something you’ve been pushing off and making it a habit.

I’ve been using this along with Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain technique to study French. I added the task of “Learn French 30 minutes” to my Dailies spreadsheet and give each day I hit 30+ a nice green fill. Overtime I got fancy with things and linked another spreadsheet to total the time from the different methods I’m using whether it is listening to the Coffee Break French podcast, playing Duolingo, studying notecards, or anything else. It goes into my dailies and gives me easy visual feedback to track my progress.

After 2 months of tracking my daily progress I’m at just over 40 hours of learning French.

Getting Things Done

Dailies worked for getting me started on some new skills I’ve been wanting to develop for some time, but 2014 also saw me become a lead developer at my company. I needed to quickly figure out how to be more productive and get the things done that were already on my plate, but still be able to find the time for my passion projects.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

My productivity kick really started off with reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stree-Free ProductivityIt is worth a read. Even if you don’t fully implement the system, David Allen still expresses great ideas on managing the tasks on your plate in a maintainable way to get them out of your head and organized on paper to help decrease your stress.


Now David Allen preaches putting everything down on paper, and I understand physically writing things down can be a calming influence in itself, but I rarely have pen and paper on me, but I always have my phone or some other device with Internet access. Enter Evernote. I’ve just been storing tons and tons of information on here. Everything from measurements of my new house to design reviews of client’s websites. Plus you can even scan in handwritten notes and search them. Any information I need is an app away.


The one thing I didn’t like about Evernote was keeping lists of things to do. There’s just something restorative about clicking that checkbox when a task is finally done. After playing with Wunderlist a little while, I switched to Todoist. It’s a beautifully simple to do list app. That with the proper configuration can easily be implemented with the Getting Things Done methodology. Anytime I think of something I need to do I’ll just add it in, give it a date, assign it to a project, or just drop it in my Inbox for organization later. Todoist allows you to set up labels, filters, and even location aware notifications with the mobile app (and Todoist Pro). I use it everyday to keep track of everything from what I need to get done at work to what I need at the store.

Where To Go From Here

The Pomodoro Technique

I’m still looking for new ways to increase my productivity over the next year. One method I’ve been taking a look at is the Pomodoro Technique. Basically you break tasks down into 25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5 minute break. Then every 4 you take a longer break. I haven’t fully implemented it yet, but in my test runs I’ve discovered it has helped me break my tasks down into more manageable chunks. Now the trick is going to be getting rid of all those “urgent” tasks that jump up throughout the day.

Whatever Works For You

Everyone isn’t the same. As can be seen by the plethora of techniques and methods out there that aim to increase your productivity. These are just some of the tools and techniques I’ve implemented into my workflow in 2014. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

  1. As long as you work out 2 times a day 7 times a week.
  2. By taking 2 weeks off work to implement the system into your workflow.
  3. Reading Time WP and Easy Footnotes
  4. Give me a break. It’s cold here in Missouri.
  5. I can’t find the article that introduced this concept to me, but when I do I’ll add it.

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