5 off-grid productivity methods to kickstart your new year

Checklists, to-dos & frogs

As 2017 grinds to a close, thoughts inevitably turn to 2018. You’re probably considering productivity methods or other strategies for running your business more effectively than in the previous 12 months. The quality of these efforts will rely heavily on your efficiency.

While you can find lots of advice about a few common productivity methods, there are some more unique processes that might just supercharge your efforts. These include creating checklists, as well as eating frogs (we promise to explain!). What these techniques have in common is that they help you more effectively approach the mound of tasks on your to-do list.

5 productivity methods to kickstart your new year

With this in mind, let’s look at five productivity methods that aren’t usually discussed. We’ll talk about using checklists as outlined in the Checklist Manifesto, using anti to-do lists to clear your outstanding tasks, and more!

  1. Use a simple checklist to improve consistency.

  2. Bolster your sense of achievement with an anti to-do list.

  3. Decide whether to “eat that frog.”

  4. Iterate your tasks with the autofocus method.

  5. Break apart mammoth tasks with the Flowtime Technique.

Ready to learn about those frogs?! Then keep reading!

1. Use a simple checklist to improve consistency

Productivity Methods To-Do List
Photo: john.schultz / CC BY-SA

The first of our productivity methods is likely one you’ve already used. For example, you’ve probably created checklists for completing personal tasks and buying groceries. Using checklists to carry out complex tasks with many elements or steps, on the other hand, helps you ensure consistency and efficiency.

This strategy was outlined to near-perfection in Atul Gawande’s book the Checklist Manifesto. In it, he argues that by rigidly following a simple checklist, your processes are less error prone, meaning you can reap the benefits of a significant reduction in ‘human error’ mistakes.

Implementing this method is simple. The next time you carry out a task — any task — document the exact steps, including login details, email addresses, and anything else that’s pertinent. Then simply follow the checklist to the letter, and add in any elements you missed. Over time, you’ll improve your ability to create comprehensive checklists and build up a handy set of resources for recurring tasks.

2. Bolster your sense of achievement with an anti to-do list

Of course, how to use a basic to-do list is common knowledge when it comes to productivity methods. However, this strategy is inherently negative. At the end of the day, all your list shows is what you failed to achieve.

Anti to-do lists are a smart solution to that problem.


They begin empty, and by the end of the day, are filled with the tasks you’ve completed. This self-motivational tool can work wonders for your productivity and sense of self-achievement, and it helps you keep track of everything.

To implement this technique, our advice is to take small steps. Begin by cherry-picking items from your regular to-do list and completing them, but note what they are. Look at the list the next morning, and then rinse and repeat. From here, you can take things further, such as using a dedicated Trello board to keep track of your daily lists. Eventually, you might not even need your original to-do list. Over time, you’ll learn to self-prioritize your workload, and receive a motivational boost in the process.

3. Decide whether to “eat that frog”

Productivity Methods Frog

The third item on our list of productivity methods doesn’t exactly sound appetising, but that’s the point. This weirdest of productivity methods is derived from an oft-quoted soundbite from Mark Twain:

“If the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing it’s probably the worst thing to happen all day.”

While the source of this quote is in question, it’s still a sound way to improve productivity. All you have to do is apply this procrastination-killing technique to your own work. The frog stands in for your most important or challenging task of the day, and eating it simply means getting it done.

Preferably, you’ll complete this task first thing in the morning, before any of your other work. After that, nothing else you need to do will feel quite as stressful. After all, if you’ve already completed your most pressing task of the day, everything should be a breeze.

4. Iterate your tasks using the Autofocus method

The next of our productivity methods takes a holistic approach to your to-do list, and works with (rather than against) you. Using Autofocus keeps boredom at bay by giving you different tasks to complete, chips away at your current list of tasks, and keeps organization requirements to a minimum. It’s this last point that makes Autofocus so intriguing.

At its foundation, the method works by making use of three lists:

  1. New tasks
  2. Recurring tasks
  3. Unfinished tasks

You’ll go down your current to-do list, completing any task you can, and repeating it until you get to the end. If you don’t finish an item that day, place it on the unfinished list. Once you have no new tasks, you begin working on your other lists. This is a smart way to cycle through and tick off everything you have to complete.

5. Break apart mammoth tasks with the Flowtime Technique

Productivity Methods Flow Chart
Photo: daipresents / CC BY

The last of our productivity methods owes a lot to the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks tasks down into strict, timed divisions, punctuated by regular breaks. The hope of the Pomodoro Technique is that you won’t get bored or burnt out on one particular, “must-complete” task. However, its almost robotic workflow doesn’t take complexity into account.

The Flowtime Technique relaxes time constraints, and lets you decide how long a task will take.

Essentially, you pick a task, record your start time, and then note whenever you take a break. You should keep these breaks clearly scheduled, but work based on your own stamina and the demands of the task in question. You might even discover more about your working patterns in the process, enabling you to become more efficient in the future.

Final thoughts on productivity methods

As the old saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” In other words, to see increased success, productivity, and efficiency in 2018, you’ll need to change up your approach.

In this post, we’ve looked at five non-standard productivity methods that will hopefully supercharge your results in 2018. Let’s recap them quickly:

  1. Use checklists to maintain procedural consistency.
  2. Work from an anti to-do list to conquer an overwhelming pile of tasks.
  3. “Eat that frog” first thing in the day to eliminate your primary source of stress.
  4. Consider using Autofocus to iterate all your current tasks.
  5. Break up your project into smaller tasks using the Flowtime Technique.

Try out a few different options to find the productivity method that works best for you. Then, implement it daily to make knocking items off your task list easy!