You're busy with too much to do and not enough time. You can keep running faster on that damn treadmill — or you can get smart with these four mental models to boost your productivity and get your time back.
ModelThinkers already has a range of models on this popular topic, and we'll keep adding more, but here are some to get started.
- Pareto Principle
- Parkinson's Law
- Eisenhower Matrix
- Deep Work
- Systems vs Goals
- Buffet's Two Lists
As I said, this is just touching the tip of the iceberg but it's a good start. These models represent a broad mix of strategic time prioritisation and practical daily techniques. Let's jump into each in a little more detail.
If you're a regular user of ModelThinkers, you'll already know that this is a favourite around here. In this context it's an acknowledgement that you can't get it all done — so instead focus your action on where the highest value returns are. It's an inherent death knoll to perfectionism.
Parkinson's Law is a reminder that time will flow when left in open streams. Okay, I heard how that sounded like advice from a mysterious martial arts grandmaster, so let me make it more practical. Timebox and use Forcing Functions.
The Eisenhower Matrix is such a simple and powerful model. Simply classify your tasks to focus on urgent and important in the first instance, with the aim of becoming less reactive and moving towards the not urgent and important overtime. It's a reminder that not all tasks are created equal - dare I remind you of Pareto yet again?
The final model on this list fully embraces what some of the previous models hinted at, ruthless prioritisation. Buffett's advice to his pilot has become a model for absolute focus and applying discipline about what 'not' to do. A key productivity hack indeed.
You can just use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritise tasks but things change and the world is unpredictable. That's where Kanban comes in — part of Agile Methodology, use this simple card sorting system to update priorities, pulling tasks from a 'backlog' that allows greater flexibility and visibility. Sure, it's part of agile teams, but I highly recommend it for personal use too.
Multitasking is not a thing. There, I said it. You're not multitasking, you're switch tasking, and being less productive as a result. So why not use this model to schedule some uninterrupted, focused Deep Work? Combine it with the models above (such as Pareto, Eisenhower Matrix and Kanban) to identify high-value tasks that require creativity and deep thinking to prioritise in those moments.
On the topic of embedding regular focused Deep Work, why not take a broader look at your systems? Let go of your obsession on distant goals, and instead consider how you spend each day — what systems, habit and practices do you implement and do they align with what you're trying to achieve?
As I said upfront, there are many other models to support you to increase productivity and we have a bunch of productivity models in our backlog that will be popping up on the site in the coming months. For now, I hope you enjoyed these four as a starting point to prioritise and get control of your time.
What other Models do you use to be more productive? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.