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 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 you started.
A huge part of prioritisation is about consciously choosing what you work on and what you say no to. Use these models to do that effectively.
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.
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?
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.
PRIORITISE YOUR FOCUS
Productivity is not so much about time management, but about focusing your attention and work efforts.
This is a foundational for any productivity-obsessed geek (and if you're reading this then yes, we are talking about you!). GTD was the beginning of the wave of personal productivity that continues today.
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.
Every working day, you will spend hours and hours in meetings — some of them pointless, many more of them unproductive. So, it makes sense to include your productivity focus by reducing and improving your meetings.
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?
PRIORITISE YOUR LIFE
And finally, a model to step back from the priorities of the day to ensure that you're headed in the right direction for your life.
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.