Productivity and Time Management: Time to Ditch the Apps?

Productivity and time management, tools, apps, and hacks are everywhere. And they are getting ever more complex. And less effective.

Time management has become a nightmare (partly due to our inability to discipline ourselves). And you can only acknowledge that your work productivity is going down the drain.

I have tested at least 15 apps in the last couple of months and none of them delivered (not only that but they were preventing what they were supposed to promote: productivity).


From a pressing need to increase my productivity and improve time management, I started looking at some ancient productivity tools (aka pre-smartphone).


Productivity and Time Management Tools, Tips, and Techniques You Have Forgotten

If you’re really looking for how to be productive, give these a try. You might be surprised by the results.

(And no, I won’t be talking here about the Pomodoro technique. However praise that technique may be, I find it very annoying – it interrupts the state of flow, and on the long run it becomes exactly the opposite of productivity.)

Pen and Paper

Half joking.

Putting the pen on paper and taking time to write a to-do list was something quite satisfying. From more than one point of view.

Here’s why.

First: because you took time to reflect. Is it important? Is it worth my time? Is it helping me to advance in the right direction?

Last (but not least): There is a certain feeling of having accomplished something when you tick something off your to-do list (with a pen on paper). For some reason, it feels much better than when you just tick a box on a screen.

And you know why this is maybe one of the best productivity tips?

Because with your to-do list on a piece of paper you’ll have no excuse to check your phone!


A Clear Sense of Objectives and Priorities

This may sound easy. In Theory (you know, the land where everything is perfect).

In reality, it’s a difficult one. Because it requires you to stop, pace yourself, take a deep breath and think.

Caught in the maelstrom of daily activities we focus more on doing than on doing what needs to be done.


What's the use of running if you're running in the wrong direction? - Anonymous #productivity #strategy Click To Tweet


If you want to improve work performance, it’s better to decide first what you want to improve.

Understanding what is that we want to achieve, what needs to be done in order to get to what we want, and in what order, is something that no app will help us do (yet).



To Increase Productivity Schedule Important Activities during Your Flow Hours

Schedule time to work on important tasks when you’re the most productive (when you’re in a state of “flow”). Schedule lower priority tasks for other periods of the day.


“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Pablo Picasso

And remember to take breaks. Nobody can focus for more than 90 minutes non-stop and pretend they are productive (it’s a fact).


Counterintuitive Time Management Tip: Take Breaks

When we were students, we had a saying. It said that the key to great success is in taking long frequent breaks.

It was a joke to justify our studying just before the exams. Lately, neuroscientists discovered that there is actually a link between break, productivity, and performance.

There are two reasons for taking breaks.

First, you recharge and give your brain time for recovery.

Second, and most important, by physically and emotionally detaching yourself from the work you do, you allow your mind to think creatively about the problem without any stress (this is called creative problem solving – your aha! moments).



If you want to read more

David Allen – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Atul Gawande – The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Geoff Colvin – Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else