Productivity operating system for busy people. Tasks, notes, calendar, people all in a single app
I've been a productivity geek since the early days of my professional life, constantly trying to find hacks that will help me do things faster so that I can spend more time in leisure.
I often ended up with a system that worked for a week or two, but not beyond that. I found that the complexity of the system was often inversely proportional to long-term adoption.
Around the time, I came across by Brian Tracy talking about the "Eat the Frog" methodology. The naming was odd enough to capture my attention, and before I knew it, I was reading scores of articles by other people talking about the method.
For those unfamiliar with the origins of the "Eat the frog" method, it was coined by Brian Tracy and is based on a Mark Twain quote.
"Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."
Generally, while researching productivity methods, you'll often find different interpretations by different practitioners for the same method or system; however, with "Eat the Frog," the messaging and application were super consistent. The uniformity was refreshing in itself, so I decided to try it for a week.
I started by writing down what I wanted to do, and I quickly found myself writing a list far longer than what I had initially expected. I was then left with about 20 items on my list with varying degrees of importance.
To shorten the list of tasks, I decided to use another tool called the Pareto Principle. Popularly known as the 80/20 rule, the principle states that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes; in essence, 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. So I got to apply the principle and narrow it down to ~four tasks.
However, this was still three tasks too many. So I applied the Pareto Principle again, and soon I arrived at the most important task that will give me the highest ROI on my time and effort. I picked up the task and scheduled it as the first one for the following day.
I woke up knowing what to do and got started on that task immediately after getting out of bed. I was done with the task in 45 minutes, and I had barely just started my day. The rest of the day felt like a breeze since there was not a lot of pressure on me to be productive.
A few days in and I started seeing a problem: I was doing pretty well on the first task, a.ka. The frog, but the rest of the day, I was getting complacent. While before starting with the "Eat the Frog" method, I used to work 6-7 hours a day; after implementation, it dropped to 4.5 - 5 hours.
It soon became apparent that to be successful at using any productivity system, I need to add a supporting system that will ensure that my output or effort doesn't drop. So I started experimenting with a few other productivity systems, and the one that worked the best for me was time blocking.
While I finished the most critical task early, I still needed a structure to work with for the rest of the day to be more productive and time blocking gave me that structure.
So my calendar looked something like this:
So I had mapped out each of these tasks the day before and blocked time using our productivity tool called Routine. Some of the blocks, like most important tasks, emails, lunch break, etc., were constant on all days, so I created recurring tasks/time slots. Creating recurring time slots on Routine is pretty simple; you can find out more about it here.
While it was hard initially to keep up with the schedule, I was hitting 80% of my productivity goals, and that's not bad at all. To make things a little easier on myself, I started blocking time in smaller slots of 25 minutes, each separated by a 5-minute break (Pomodoro technique). This helped initially, but it made my calendar look messy, and I was constantly context switching due to constant breaks. I settled on a sweet spot of 45-minute slots with 10-minute intervals between them, and it has been working well for about two weeks now.
Long story short, yes. However, you must understand the pitfalls of a simple system and add some fallback strategies to avoid them. I also found that reviewing your workdays at the end of the week helps to map out the future better, and for this, you can use the weekly review system.
It was also pretty evident that your breaks are essential to keep you productive throughout the day, so take them strategically. All in all, the "Eat the frog" method is a super helpful productivity tool to add to your arsenal.