Use Science to Get Insane Amounts of Work Finished

5 Techniques to Knock Out Task Lists in Record Time

Chelle Honiker
Jan 7 · 5 min read
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The never-ending battle to cross tasks off the list. The sheer number of ways to manage tasks is staggering, and yet nearly every freelancer I work with says they struggle with crossing off enough tasks with regularity. We’re hard-wired to strive for completion. It’s why many experts tell us to make our bed first thing in the morning so we have a quick win early in the day. That small act gives us momentum and forward progress, setting up the day for success.

You’re On This Quest Alone

My quest for better managing my time illustrates this. Where one expert recommends rigid time blocking another one advocates for just doing whatever feels right until you get into a flow state. Some experts suggest hiring as a way to buy back your time. Some suggest rigid time-blocking. It can be frustrating and confusing.

Still, there are some techniques rooted in scientific principles that successful people turn to time and again. And once you understand them then you can lifehack a system for yourself and award yourself employee of the month for your productivity.

Let’s look at each of them in a little more detail.

Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule)

As a freelancer, I use one metric for what my 20% effort will include: what’s going to make me money. That's my 20% and I’m ruthless. Before understanding this, I took on too many passion projects and clients that were a total time and energy suck, and they led to a period of burnout and near-bankruptcy. Now I look at my clients and projects with a more critical eye and make adjustments as needed to stay aligned with this principle.

Eisenhower Method

Do you find yourself coming to the end of an ass-kicking busy day feeling like you got next to nothing done? This principle can help you reassess if you’re spending time on the right things.

Ideally, you want to spend most of your time in the upper right box of this matrix, working on what’s not urgent and on fire, but remains important. I keep my 20% work from the Pareto Principle in the urgent box so it remains my top priority.

Urgent/Not Important tasks are time management land mines. Delegation is key. I have a great virtual assistant that manages much of the busywork associated with social media and I also use technology as an outlet for delegation. For example, my articles on Medium are picked up by my social media accounts and are dropped into my newsletter automatically.

The last box, not urgent and not important, is where I’ve spent a good amount of time filtering my Gmail so I never see most of the noise that can quickly derail an entire day.

Parkinson’s Principle

It’s Parkinson’s Principle which says, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

I use this to timebox my writing. If I know I need to knock out an article then I’ll give myself two hours to write it, and magically, it gets done. But if I say I need to do this by Thursday then it may or may get done. It’s the specificity of time that works. After regularly using this principle I’ve gotten better at estimating how long tasks take which has a trickle-down benefit. I’m now better at estimating client projects which leads to more accurate pricing and less scope creep.

Pomodoro Technique

Writers use this technique for sprinting. I keep a “tomato timer” on my phone and on my Chrome Browser that counts down 25 minutes, gives me a 5-minute break, and then starts again. For some, it’s the gamification that makes it work, and for others, it’s simply just breaking it down into some manageable increments.

The Tomato Timer is an effective tool for counting down increments of work

Ultradian Rhythms

Understanding How They All Fit Together

Vagabond Empires

Stories designed to help location independent freelancers start, grow, and run a business as a digital nomad

Chelle Honiker

Written by

Caffeinated ☕️ Writer ✏️ Rebel Scum👸 Speaker 🔊 Trainer 👩‍🏫 Vagabond — building an empire one byte and flight at a time. https://vagabondempires.com

Vagabond Empires

Stories designed to help location independent freelancers start, grow, and run a business as a digital nomad

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade