How to Work Smarter and Increase Productivity in 2017

How to Work Smarter and Increase Productivity in 2017
A brand new year means a brand new start, with brand new projects and other exciting ventures.

Whether you’ve already started working or are still enjoying the last few days of the festive season, kicking off your 2017 with a focused mind and steady objectives will certainly help both the daily operations and the long-term marketing of your businesses.

To help you begin working towards maximizing your productivity, we’ve rounded up a number of the best tips, tricks, hacks and apps to help you plan better, work smarter, time manage more effectively and increase your productivity.

Productivity essentially comes down to setting a number of goals and being able to work toward achieving them by increasing the level of personal discipline and decreasing the number of distractions that inhibit constructive workflow.

Having researched the topic of productivity extensively, there are a number of common bits of advice that resurface regularly:

  • Prioritize good health by getting enough sleep each night, eating foods that nourish and energize both your body and mind, taking breaks frequently and exercising.
  • Find a way to manage your emails in a clever and strategic way. Whether this is turning off notifications for a while, only checking emails at a specific time period each day, playing The Email Game, or making use of canned responses (Gmail), find a way to manage your inbox so that you don’t lose countless hours to back-and-forth mail chains or distracting newsletters.
  • Don’t multitask. Constantly trying to switch back and forth between a number of tasks can be incredibly counterproductive. Instead, focus on one core task at a time and devote your attention and energy toward completing it.
  • Find a good way to deal with meetings. Whether you decide to schedule them all into the same day or prioritize virtual chat meetings instead, come up with a plan to ensure that you don’t lose too much workable time to driving to a destination, waiting for the attendee and so on. Also, as meetings are social engagements, conversations tend to go off topic, so make sure that you either accommodate time for social talk or remember to steer the conversation back to business related topics.
  • Limit the number of distractions that may come your way. Remove your social media pages from bookmarks, only look at your phone during breaks, or even turn off your computer’s WiFi when working through periods of extreme focus.

Most importantly, come up with a plan, test it, tweak it and stick to it.

Ultimately, mastering productivity boils down to refining a routine and perfecting it until constructive habits form. As this is a new year, consider setting aside the first few weeks of January to test out different productivity techniques and/or tools.

In this blog post you’ll find:

  • The 10 Best Productivity Techniques and Methods,
  • The Top 12 Productivity and Organization Apps to Streamline Your Workflow, as well as
  • Tips, Tricks, Hacks and Advice from Thought Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Experts


The 10 Best Productivity Techniques and Methods

Before suggesting a number of apps and digital solutions for time management and project tracking, it’s worth cover a number of the most popular productivity techniques.

These techniques are especially usefully to those that might be overwhelmed with or distracted by learning a shiny new app interface, or who are more inclined to use good old fashioned pen and paper when planning and tracking.

Some of these methodologies have been either produced into stationery or apps, but at their core, the basic principles can simply be mirrored and adapted to fit your daily routine and productivity style in either digital or physical forms.

  • The Getting Things Done (GTD) Method, developed by David Allen, sees the process of documenting, structuring and prioritizing every single one of your personal, business and life goals. Once each goal is divided into a specific category (roughly based on urgency and time length), and once you’re able to visualize every single thing you need to get done, you’re able to begin executing your task list.
  • The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, breaks workable periods into 25 minute focused sprints that are separated by 5 minute breaks. Each 25 minute period is called a ‘pomodoro’ and after four pomodoros, there is a longer break of between 15 – 30 minutes. Good for micromanaging your daily tasks, either manually write down the time periods and breaks, possibly with what you’d like to accomplish in each, and use your phone to track the timing. Or use this nifty online Pomodoro timer.
  • Created by Mark Forster, the SuperFocus System involves a simple To-Do style of list making that splits tasks into two degrees of importance: general and urgent. A great method for those that like making lists and who are more visually stimulated, read more of the SuperFocus directions here.
  • Originally used by Toyota to streamline their manufacturing process, the Kanban Method is a simple and effective method for people to view the progression of their projects in a visual manner. Essentially the analog and old school version of Trello, the Kanban method makes use tasks written on post-it notes, whiteboards or similar, that are then placed into a series of columns – or boards – which are often labelled as “To-Do”, “Doing”, and “Done”. When tasks progress forward, they move to the following column until completed.
  • Created by Ryder Carroll, Bullet Journalling and the physical Bullet Journal itself employs a pretty rigid and effective system of listing and highlighting both business and personal To-Do entries. You can purchase the actual journal itself, or just as easily start your own Bullet Journal using a blank notebook.
  • Bringing the Pomodoro technique to paper, the Productivity Planner by Intelligent Change structures daily tasks into three categories of importance, and too, asks you to recall the number of ‘pomodoros’ (or sprints) you’ve worked on per task. The physical planner itself can be purchased via the site, or you could set up your own printable using the same principles.
  • The Chronodex, developed by Patrick Ng, is a day planning technique that breaks down the hours of a day into concentric circles (AM and PM) that you are then able to segment based on tasks, appointments, duties occurring within the time period. The Chronodex might sound a bit complicated, but it’s definitely worth exploring especially of you are extremely visually orientated and list making or similar techniques don’t suit your style.
  • Another rapid journalling technique slightly similar to the Bullet Journal, the Strikethru System sees a standard notebook divided into four sections (The Live List, The Dump, The Vault and The Calendar), each with their own unique characteristic for organizing either a task, date, event or idea. More information here.
  • If none of the above methods appeal to you, have a look at Brian Tracy’s “Eat That Frog” method, or Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break The Chain!” method.

The Top 12 Productivity and Organization Apps to Streamline Your Workflow

Personally, no matter how beautiful the stationery, I always seem to lose interest in the processes of physically writing down to-do lists. Also, I tend lose pieces of paper quite easily. With this, I much rather prefer using a collection of the digital apps.

In no particular order, the most popular and commonly cited productivity apps regularly referenced across a number of sources writing on the topic of productivity are:


General Planning of Business and Personal Tasks, Projects and Time Management


Time Tracking


For List Lovers

Whether you use a collection of apps or one of the pen-and-paper planning methods, the most important thing about recording your tasks and the relative time, is the process of reflecting on whether the hour, day, week or month was in fact spent productively or whether time was wasted or used inefficiently.

Whether you time plan each hour, day or week, remember to go back and assess where you have thrived or where you’ve struggled.

Reflecting on both tasks accomplished and opportunities missed will allow you to refine both your workflow and routines.

Tips, Tricks, Hacks and Advice from Thought Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Experts

Finally, if you need a bit of extra encouragement from experts in the fields of business and productivity, have a look at some of the following resources:
* Chris Bailey is a particularly great source in this regard as he’d basically spent a full year researching everything he could abut the topic of productivity. From reading countless books to conducting a number of experiments, Bailey documents all of his findings through his blog. Have a read through of some of his findings here.
One Last Thing!

If you haven’t already seen it, have a look at Trello’s latest campaign #ReadySetGoal. If you’ve set some personal goals, business objectives or general New Years Resolutions, signing up for Tello’s #ReadySetGoal campaign will allow you to get regular tips from some of the best experts in the fields of health, productivity, business, travel and more.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that you’ve discovered a new technique that can help you and your business in 2017.

If not, keep in mind that this blog post serves as a brief overview of some good productivity tools, tips, tricks, and techniques, and we certainly haven’t covered every single bit of advice out there. If none of the sources listed above align with your personal work style, then use this blog post as a base for your research to find the perfect productivity method for you.

Please feel free to share your comments or queries below. We love receiving your feedback!

Thanks for reading!

Lisa-Robyn Keown

Lisa-Robyn is a qualified copywriter and brand strategist from Cape Town, South Africa.