33 Heuristics for Productivity

mv ferry
—A cone of silence no more: Annabelle and me on the Vineyard ferry.

Excellent post on using heuristics to improve your productivity over at Steve Pavlina . com.

A heuristic is a rule or approach for solving a problem. It’s from the same Greek word that gives us “Eureka,” and roughly translates to, “I found it.” Basically a heuristics approach involves setting a set of rules to enable you to solve complex problems. In so doing, you break down the problem into manageable steps.

More importantly, it allows you to start tackling an intimidating project that you would otherwise avoid. This process of starting often leads you to unexpected paths on your way to completion.

Mr. Pavlina makes the very astute connection between a heuristics-approach and the GTD system. So much of GTD involves breaking large projects down into contextualized pieces, and – of course – getting going on projects (the 2 minute rule, for example).

Mr Pavlina identifies 33 productivity heuristics that can greatly improve your productivity. Some of my favorites include:

Nuke it! The most efficient way to get through a task is to delete it. If it doesn’t need to be done, get it off your to do list.

Timeboxing. Give yourself a fixed time period, like 30 minutes, to make a dent in a task. Don’t worry about how far you get. Just put in the time. See Timeboxing for more. [I prefer 48 minutes, but the principle is correct.]

Pareto. The Pareto principle is the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the value of a task comes from 20% of the effort. Focus your energy on that critical 20%, and don’t overengineer the non-critical 80%.

Resonance. Visualize your goal as already accomplished. Put yourself into a state of actually being there. Make it real in your mind, and you’ll soon see it in your reality.

Cone of silence. Take a laptop with no network or WiFi access, and go to a place where you can work flat out without distractions, such as a library, park, coffee house, or your own backyard. Leave your comm gadgets behind.

Regarding Cone of Silence, I was, last night, talking to a friend about how I used to just get on the ferry and ride back and forth between Martha’s Vineyard and Wood’s Hole, because I was so productive out there on the high seas where there was no cell phone or internet access. Sadly, one can now remain online throughout the trip. I’m in search of a new cone of silence.

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