The busier we are and the harder we work, the more we will achieve, right?

Not necessarily.

It’s not about the number of hours you work, it’s about what you can get done in the fewest hours.

Work smarter, not harder” was my old boss’s favourite phrase. He couldn’t give a flying fig if I worked from 9am – 9pm each day. In fact, he saw it as a bad thing: if I had to work 12-hour days, it meant I wasn’t being productive enough with my time.  

He was right, of course.

We don’t need to slog out a 12-hour day where, even at the end of it, we still feel like we’re drowning. We can work a normal 8-hour day and feel like we’re riding the crest of a wave.


Productivity hack #1: Only work for 25mins (at a time)

Are you guilty of putting off certain tasks? The ones you know are going to be long and complicated? Suddenly, sorting through emails, checking your bank balance and tidying your desk become more important than the task you should be doing.

But the task follows you though, doesn’t it? It lingers in the back of your mind until the anxiety about completing it becomes so bad that you eventually just have to do it. Either that, or time runs out and you have no choice but to complete it.

If this scenario sounds familiar, try the Pomodoro technique.

What is the Pomodoro technique and how does it work?

Pomodoro is a time management method that actually works. It’s a simple but effective way to get the most out of the time that you have.

This is how it works:

  • Pick the task you want to focus on (yes, the big, overwhelming one)
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes
  • Switch off all distracting notifications (including emails)
  • Work solidly on that task until the timer beeps
  • Take a 2–3-minute break: check emails, scroll through social or make a drink
  • Repeat the process for another 25 minutes
  • After four 25-minute blocks, take a slightly longer break

If 25 minutes seems too long, try shortening it to 18 or 15 minutes. If 25 minutes feels too short, lengthen it to 30 minutes, or some even work in 60-minute blocks. Do whatever works for you.

The key behind Pomodoro is to work in focused bursts, with breaks in between.

Why does the Pomodoro work?

Carving your day into blocks of time coupled with short breaks will help you accomplish more in two ways:  

  1. It’ll make it easier to get started on those daunting, but important, tasks.
    Studies have also shown an effective way to break out of the avoidance cycle: shrink whatever it is you’re putting off down to a tiny, unintimidating first step” – Todoist

    When we put things off, it’s often the thought of slogging away on something we think will be difficult that makes us procrastinate. If you know you only have to work on it for 25 minutes before you get a break, suddenly it feels more manageable.  

2. It allows you to focus better.
“When I start a 25-minute Pomodoro session, I know I can’t check email, social media or the news. It’s kind of like brain training.” – Forbes

With non-stop emails, social updates, phone calls, news stories and countless other notifications that pop up throughout our day, it’s all too easy to get distracted when we’re at work. But the minute our minds drift away from the task we’re working on; it becomes incredibly difficult to pull ourselves back in and refocus.  

With Pomodoro, once that timer starts it’s pure, uninterrupted focus time. There are no notifications, emails, social updates or phone calls pulling you away. Your mind is free to focus on the task at hand and is not clouded by the clutter and noise of daily work life.

Productivity hack #2: Scrap to-do lists

I don’t doubt that at least 80% of the ‘’productivity hack’’ articles you’ll read will tell you that to-do lists are key to getting stuff done.

I don’t agree.

Have you ever heard the rock, pebble and sand analogy?

You have a large glass jar in front of you that you need to fill. This jar is your day.

First, you fill your jar with a few large rocks. It doesn’t take many to fill the jar, but these rocks count as your biggest, most important tasks.

Next, you pour a load of smaller pebbles into the jar. These pebbles settle into the cracks between the larger rocks and are your less important, shorter-term tasks.

Finally, you tip sand into the jar until every nook and cranny is filled. The sand represents your small, menial and trivial tasks.  

Now your jar is full to the brim. But, if you’d put the sand in first, would there have been room for the big rocks?

The moral of the story is to practice prioritization. Focusing on the big rocks first will get you further than slogging your way through sand will.

So, scrap the long to-do lists and focus on your few, high priority, high ROI tasks.

First I make a list of priorities: one, two, three, and so on. Then I cross out everything from three down.” – Huff Post

It’s like the Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule). 20% of your tasks will get you 80% of the results. So choose your 20% carefully and see how much more you can achieve.

Only a few things truly matter… there are merely a handful of tasks that significantly move the needle.” – Medium

You might be recoiling at the thought of scrapping the to-do list and focusing on just two or three key tasks. After all, the smaller, trivial tasks still need to get done, don’t they?  

This is where hack #3 comes in….

Productivity hack #3: Stop doing admin yourself

Now, I’m not for one second suggesting that you should go out and hire someone to take on your trivial tasks (although wouldn’t that be nice).

I’m talking about automating your mundane and laborious tasks. Tasks such as inputting data, sending emails, scheduling events, paying bills and backing up data or files.

Technology can take these low ROI, administrative tasks off your plate, freeing you up to focus on the bigger, more important tasks.  

For instance, filing an R&D tax return can take up a lot of time. You have to speak to R&D tax specialists, gather together lots of information and then go through the process of filing it. But these days there are so many self-service tax return portals out there that take the heavy lifting off your shoulders and allow you to submit your claims effortlessly.

Productivity is increasing because we’re not spending as much time on tedious tasks. We have more time to spend working toward key objectives and helping the business to grow instead of on necessary but time-consuming tasks that eat up our time.” – Cronofy


Real productivity is about identifying what’s important, protecting your time for those tasks and doing them as efficiently as possible.

Less really is more.