If you want to make the most out of your working days – and progress in your career – then you shouldn’t just sit down at your desk and work solidly for eight hours.
That might sound counter-productive, but a constant stream of work only leads to tiredness, a lack of concentration and poorer results. Instead, consider an alternative working method to turbo-charge your day-to-day output, and you’ll likely find your career starts going places too.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. We’ve rounded up nine of the best alternative working methods and explained how they work – and how they can boost your business life.
That’s not all the career advice we’ve got on the site, either: head over here for a breakdown of the SMART goal system or read up on the self-improvement practices that can turbo-charge your career.
This is one of the most popular and well-known alternative working methods, and for good reason. It’s a time management system where you divide your working day into 25-minute bursts of activity followed by five-minute breaks.
After four of those sequences, you’ll have worked for two hours, so take a longer break before returning to the task. And be strict about it – use a timer to ensure you stay on task.
This technique keeps your brain focused for those 25-minute stints because you’ve also got those breaks in between – so your working day will benefit from short bursts of productivity (opens in new tab) rather than a slow descent into a sluggish afternoon. If you can divide your work into smaller blocks, the Pomodoro technique is an excellent method.
This is another leading method and it concentrates on using visuals to guide you through a working day in a more productive manner.
Kanban involves dividing your to-do list into three columns: the first is a backlog, the second is a list of work items that are currently in progress, and the third is a list of tasks that you’ve finished.
As you move through the day, you can move tasks from the to-do list, into the in-progress section, and then to the third category. Throughout your working day you can easily get a visual representation of everything you’ve accomplished.
That powerful visual reminder of your progress is a great tool for motivation and organization, so it’s worth trying if you regularly find yourself in the midst of a chaotic and stressful working environment.
Getting Things Done
This method – also known as GTD – is perfect if you want to keep your tasks organized and tracked. It uses a workflow that seems initially complicated, but with a bit of time it’ll become second nature.
You create a list of your projects, and then write a to-do list of smaller, actionable tasks based on your overall goals. When you’ve got that list, you can get to work: complete a task if it can be done within two minutes, delegate it to someone else if necessary, or break it down further into smaller actions.
You’ll also find that some tasks can be delayed because they’re not urgent and others can be deleted because they’re not needed.
This method can turn your complex projects into a list of easier and more manageable tasks – which means you’ll be able to attack them with more energy and focus.
Don’t Break the Chain
Bizarrely, comedian Jerry Seinfeld pioneered this type of productivity method. And, despite that, it works brilliantly well.
It’s simple, too. If you’ve got a task or habit you want to encourage, make sure you do it every day. When you do, mark your achievement on a calendar or a tracking app. Eventually you’ll build up a chain of achievement, and you’ll be more motivated to complete the task each day to avoid breaking that chain. This method is excellent if you want to work towards a long-term goal.
Eat the Frog
Do you regularly dread difficult tasks and put them off until the end of the day? If you do that – and if you find your entire day suffering as a result – then you should deploy the Eat the Frog method instead.
It’s very straightforward: instead of avoiding the tough task all day, or even all week, make it your first task of the day. You’ll do a better job on the tricky job because your brain is fresh, and you’ll get a productivity boost for the rest of the day because you’ve got that stressful, annoying task out of the way and you’re feeling more accomplished.
This method of prioritizing tasks was made famous by Dwight D Eisenhower, and he was the US President – so he clearly knew a thing or two about handling a busy day.
It’s a decision-making method that puts your work tasks into four different categories: important and urgent, important and not urgent, urgent and not important, and neither urgent or important.
Once you’ve got tasks split into those four groups, you can easily see what needs your attention first – and then move on to tasks with less urgency and less importance. It’s an easy way to organize your day, and gives you more space to be productive because you’ve got to spend less time prioritizing.
Most Important Tasks
The Most Important Tasks working method – sometimes called MIT – shares similarities with the Eisenhower Matrix.
Instead of dividing tasks into four categories, you only use two sections: one list of urgent work, and another for everything else. Do those urgent tasks first, and only commit to tackling other jobs when the important stuff is done. It’s a great option if you have trouble prioritizing your workload or if you’ve got a busy job where you often find lots of tasks competing for your attention.
Rule of Three
This method concentrates on outcomes rather than process. Start by choosing three conclusions you want to reach by the end of the day, and then break each conclusion down into a list of actionable tasks.
When you have that list of tasks, concentrate on that – don’t do anything else if you can help it. If you devote all your attention to getting those tasks done, by the end of the day you’ll find that you have achieved the three outcomes you wanted at the start of the day. And, if not, you’ll be able to easily identify how to get the job done next time or move that outcome to the next day.
If you regularly struggle to see what you’ve actually achieved in your working day then consider this method. It’ll help keep you on task, and you’ll feel more accomplished when you finally switch off your computer.
This method is effective if you jump between lots of different tasks, and it’s helpful for freelancers who have particularly frenetic days.
To start, make a list of what you need to do and estimate how much time you’ll need to get those tasks finished. Once that’s done, you can assign blocks of time in your calendar to those tasks – so you can ensure you’ve got time to get them all done.
It can be difficult to start working with this method, especially if you don’t like your working day to feel too strict. And, at first, it can be tricky to estimate how much time you need for each task. But, as you become more experienced with time blocking, you’ll be more effective when it comes to dividing your time.
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