The Best Way Is Sometimes The Simplest Way

The Best Way Is Sometimes The Simplest Way

the-action-method-1-728This month’s post all have one common denominator. They all focus on Productivity Boosting Techniques that help teach us refine our work habits and employ techniques to help us work more efficiently. So far, I’ve discussed the benefits of decluttering your workspace, using the Get Things Done or GTD method, the very fun, time based Pomodoro Technique, and the quirkily named Eat the Frog method of boosting productivity. For the last post in our Productivity Boosting Techniques for this month, I’ll talk about how sometimes, the best tricks are the most simple ones.

I know that by now we all have our routines and personal techniques of organizing tasks and keeping on top of work. We start the week with a concrete plan and a list of what we should be working on for each day. But as the week progresses, ad hoc tasks tend to creep in. Sometimes, we find ourselves with work piled up. This is when the amount of work gets too overwhelming. We tend to lose our focus and resort to just “winging it.” This means that,  somewhere along the way (and in between that pile of work), we tend to miss deadlines or miss important tasks. We may feel that the only way to get ourselves out of the funk is to clear out all the work and start at the beginning to get ourselves re-organized.

Sometimes, going back to basic is the best way to address overwhelming tasks in order to regain focus. And that’s just what the Action method teaches us. In the book “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky, he teaches us that the best methods for managing projects are simple and easy to perform. The idea behind the Action method is to break down a project into simple, intuitive components.

Ready to know how it works? Here’s what you need to do:

The Action method operates on one simple premise: that everything is a project. That monthly report you are working on is a project, so is organizing your kitchen. Once you get the hang of thinking that everything is a project, you can start identifying and breaking it down into it’s basic components. Then, all you have to do is to imagine these components as items that you can place into “buckets”.

The next step is to organize these components into the following buckets:

  1. Action Steps: Action Steps are precise and explicit tasks that help you make progress towards completing the project. They are concrete, actionable items: things that you can do something about immediately or within a specific time-frame. Take the kitchen organizing example: organizing the kitchen pantry, clearing out the cabinets under the sink, and cleaning the countertops are all examples of action steps.
  2. References: This is a list of any project related info or resources that you need to get tasks done. They could be sketches, manuals, notes, website links or anything that are readily accessible for you to refer to in relation to your project.
  3. Backburners: backburner items are things that don’t need to be done right away. They are things that you don’t have to action immediately but would have to be cleared out of the queue someday. In short, they are low priority tasks. In our kitchen organizing example, it could be: buy more bins, replace countertop with marble, or replace kitchen fixtures.

With this, I conclude our Productivity Boosting Techniques series for the month. I’d love to know which productivity boosting technique is your favorite. Let me know what works for you! As usual remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!



Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Eat That Frog And Drink The Coffee!

Eat That Frog And Drink The Coffee!

I’ve been writing a series about Productivity Boosting techniques this month. So far, we have talked about decluttering your workspace to get in the zone, the Get Things Done method of organizing all your tasks in one place, and the very fun Pomodoro Technique that has it’s origins in a tomato shaped kitchen timer. This week, I’ll tell you about another fun productivity boosting method that involves Mark Twain and frogs. Keep reading…

A famous quote from the brilliant Mark Twain goes like this: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” He then goes on to say: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What Mark Twain is saying is this: if you’re looking at an ugly, unpleasant, and somewhat metaphorically slimey task, it is best to get that done first. Get the hardest task done first!

Pretty straightforward advice, don’t you think? However, if you’re like the rest of us normal people, we tend to put off the most unpleasant task for last. We have a very human tendency to keep skirting around these ugly tasks wishing that they eventually go away or (deviously) hoping that somebody picks them up.

Listen, that is never going to happen. Nobody else will pick up the slack for you, much less do the tasks that are hard and unpleasant for you. And if you work from home, there will be nobody else to do it anyway.

So you better eat the frog! The theory behind this is for you to get the hardest, most unpleasant task over and done with first thing in the day – and the rest of your day will be smooth sailing. This productivity method was developed by Brian Tracey and he has written about it here. This method has only 3 steps to it, yet it could possibly be the hardest one to follow and execute. Here’s how it works:

  1. At the end of your workday, make a list of everything you need to accomplish the next day – If you’re in the habit of list making, this won’t come as a problem for you. Just write down everything you have to do for the next day and you’re good to go.
  2. Identify your frog (or frogs) and put them on the top of the list – Let’s face it. You have that one looming task you always tend to put off for another day.  Maybe because it looks hard, or overwhelming, or maybe so much detail goes into it’s completion, or it’s just plain unpleasant. There’s that one task that gives you anxiety because, well, you just don’t want to do it. This task is your proverbial frog. It is apprehensive and you waste so much time and energy avoiding it.
  3. In the morning, eat that frog – That’s it! Eat the proverbial frog and get over your most daunting task first thing in the morning. That will free you up for the rest of the day. And when I say free, you can literally let out a sigh of relief that you have gotten over the task that you didn’t want to do. You are now free of anxiety. You are now free to focus on other tasks that also require your attention. You are now free of spending unnecessary amounts of energy fussing over how to tackle that frog.

Go ahead and try it. Do the hardest task first and get it off your plate. Now, don’t you feel so much better? Take a break. Enjoy that warm, delicious, cup of coffee. You deserve it.  As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!



Written by Jaie O.- The Help

That Tomato Shaped Kitchen Timer

That Tomato Shaped Kitchen Timer

tomato-timer-0-60-minutes-62746-1-1The next few article in this series are all about Productivity Boosting Techniques. I have discussed a few like how decluttering gets you in the zone and the GTD or Get Things Done method of organizing all your tasks in one place. Here’s a fun productivity boosting technique that kind of involves…pasta!

Curious? Read on.

According to wikipedia “The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.”

A pomodoro is a sauce made from tomatoes which is typically served with pasta. Making the sauce involves a pomodoro kitchen timer. In this method, Francesco Cirillo used a pomodoro kitchen timer to develop the Pomodoro Technique. In this technique, one pomodoro is equal to the time interval spent working on a task. The main objective is to create a time period of intense focus and reduce procrastination.

Here’s how it is done:

  1. Pick a task that requires your full undivided attention. – I know, I know. ALL of them require your undivided attention. But just pick one for now, ok?
  2. Set a timer – The usual timeframe is for 25 minutes. That equals one pomodoro. You  set the timeframe needed for the task, so adjust accordingly. The timeframes can vary from 20 to 40 mins: more than that and you risk burning out. So aim to set short periods of time but work with intense concentration. The timer doesn’t have to be a tomato shaped kitchen timer. It could be any timer on your phone, on your watch, or you could use the pomodoro timer online here. There are also phone apps available.
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings. – In a tracker, put a checkmark or anything that denotes that you have completed one pomodoro or one 25 minute interval
  4. Take a 5 minute break – This is very important. Stop  what you’re doing when the timer rings. The break is meant to recharge you and reduce fatigue or burnout. So stretch, grab some coffee, get a snack, walk around. Take a break.
  5. Set the timer again – Set the timer to one pomodoro. Like I’ve said earlier, you determine the length of one pomodoro. In this example, our pomodoro equals 25 minutes.
  6. When you complete 4 intervals or have 4 checkmarks, take a longer break (Usually 15 to 30 mins) – Again, breaks are important. The longer break is meant to add to your sense of accomplishment. Usually, tasks are finished by this time.
  7. Depending on how much more work is left, you can either repeat until you finish the task or move on to the next task.

I must confess, this is my favorite productivity boosting method. You can get into a zone of uninterrupted work and every break feels like a reward. It feels good to chip off blocks of work one pomodoro at a time. There are apps available in iOs and Google play for your phone, if you wish to try this method out.

Have you tried this technique out before? How did it work out? Share your experience with us in the comments! As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard.



Written by Jaie O.- The Help

How To Get Things Done

How To Get Things Done

istock000051903588-crop-600x338Optimizing productivity is one key trait of successful business owners. Last week, I wrote about keeping an uncluttered workspace to boost your productivity. Managing clutter can reduce stress and keep you “in the zone”. We hope you found that article useful in your work life or personal life.

This week, let’s talk about a popular productivity boosting method that could help you manage and complete tasks. Productivity consultant, David Allen, author of the bestselling book “Getting Things Done” talks about the steps to organizing tasks according to priorities in a time- management method called “Get Things Done!”

How to GTD

Work is made of a list of things or tasks that need to be done in order to complete a job. Sometimes, we go in blindly hoping to just wing it from task to task with no concrete plan. The creator of the GTD system calls these task “open loops” and defines them as ‘anything pulling our attention that doesn’t belong where it is, the way it is.” The GTD system helps us work around those “open loops” by gathering all your tasks – immediate, long term, big picture, personal, professional—in one place (usually a journal or plain pen and paper – that’s how David Allen does it himself), thereby freeing your mind of the stress of having to remember them.

Basically, the Get Things Done or GTD method is made up of 5 steps: Capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. You answer each question about a task or action item.
Here it is in action:

  1. Capture. Write down everything that you need to get done for work (hourly tasks, daily tasks, monthly tasks, ad hoc tasks, task re:project outcomes etc.)
  2.  Clarify. Is the task do-able? Can YOU do something about it? If you can’t, get it off your list. However, if it is actionable then you have to decide what the next steps are. Action every item that you can do in 2 mins and get them off your list. Do it right away. Think about the items that you can delegate or that require other people’s help. Delegate and get them off your list. Narrow down your list, rinse, and repeat. Now you should have a streamlined list of actionable items that you are responsible for.
  3. Organize. It’s time to put those action items into categories. You can make these categories yourself based on what you need. File stuff under emails to respond to or phone calls to make or people to follow up on. You can also file them under deadlines such as: to complete today, to complete within the week etc. Create categories that work for you and fit your needs. There are many variations to how you can organize tasks into categories and that would be a discussion for another day. For now, find the best thing that works for you.
  4. Reflect. Check your list. Check it twice. Have you covered everything? Revisit it once a week, or once a month, or whatever schedule works for you.
  5. Engage. Start checking off tasks from your list. You have a working battle plan of what to do and how to do it, complete with action items and/or deadlines. That should make it easier for you to know what to do next because no you have a concrete plan of action..

This diagram from wikipedia outlines these steps.


The internet is filled with GTD resources – apps and forums, and the method has a huge following. Try it out and let us know how you like it in the comments below. We would love to hear from you. As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!



Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Why You Should Clear The Workspace Clutter

Why You Should Clear The Workspace Clutter

How-to-Optimize-Your-Workspace-amp-Create-a-Mindset-of-ProductivityNot all of us have the luxury of having a big and spacious home office. Most of the time, we clear out space on the kitchen counter or the dining table and work from there. But we all know that in order to be productive or to increase productivity, home office workers need a dedicated space. It could be as small scale as a desk or a small table specifically used for work only, or it could be a spare room with all the nice home office trimmings.

Our environment matters. Whether we notice it or not, our surroundings pretty much affect us subconsciously. So…look around. Do you see clutter? Better clear it up right away as it affects productivity.

There are days when you just can’t get your creative juices flowing and you have to force yourself into some kind of productive flow. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get rid of things that disrupt your flow? Used papers, empty coffee cups, and leftover take out boxes all contribute to “visual noise.” They compete for your attention resulting to decreased performance and increased stress. Clutter overloads your senses and affects creativity. Get rid of them now!

Make it easier to win and harder to fail.

Sometimes, it’s not just physical clutter that competes for your attention. Have you ever experienced having too many tabs open on a double monitor set-up while each one of your friends is sending you a message over some messaging app, all while you’re trying to listen to dance music? I already feel tired just by imagining it.

The simplest solutions are sometimes the best solutions. Close down all the tabs that have nothing to do with your task. Turn off your phone and put it in a drawer or in your purse. Put on some ambient sounds or coffee shop music. Better yet, put on noise cancelling headphones to help you regain focus.

Make it easier for yourself to regain your focus back by staying away from notorious productivity killers like clutter, social media, and noise.

Hard limits.

You have to apply hard limits and restraints on yourself. Vow to get rid of one source of clutter until you’ve pared your workspace down to just the essentials. Corral all those papers into boxes or files. Take all those pens and place them inside a cute coffee mug or a professional looking pen holder. Actually eat your take out in the kitchen and not on your workdesk. Close all your Twitter and Facebook tabs (unless you’re a social media manager, then close just your personal accounts).

Get the time.

Set aside time per month to review your space and your space layout. Do you need to transfer to a quieter work station? Do you need a bigger workspace? Can you add anything that will make you work more efficiently? Pick a day to clean, sort, and discard all productivity killers from your workspace. It’s better if you can set up a daily cleanse routine, that way you can start with a clean workspace everyday and not wait a month until a pile of clutter has accumulated to start cleaning your workspace.

To get back to the productivity groove, be sure to start with purpose and less “noise”. Clearing clutter is being mindful. Be mindful of your surroundings and watch your productivity flow. Do you have any decluttering tips? Share them with us in the comments! We would love to hear from you. As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help