Stress-free Productivity: How to remember every task, and do focused work

Stress-free Productivity: How to remember every task, and do focused work

Dustin Lien
August 30, 2017

The goal most days is to be more productive with your work, and eliminating stress at the same time. Fair?

It’s all too common of a stereotype, especially with entrepreneurs, that we have to be miserable and overwhelmed to come out successful on the other side. Like a right of passage or something.

Well, that’s just not necessary.

The real secret is that most people just don’t know what it means to be productive, and how to structure their environments to eliminate stress while increasing the amount that gets done.

That’s what this post is all about.

I’m going to show you how to get things done quickly and with minimal stress.

1. How to Never Forget a Task & Consistently Achieve Inbox Zero

A big cause of stress in work comes from the feeling of overwhelm when we simply have too much to do and seemingly not enough time to get it done.

It results in a terrible cycle called “overwhelm paralysis.”

What happens is we get an influx of tasks and requests that all appear to be urgent and important, and our minds get bombarded with this, and instead of doubling down and taking things into overdrive, we instead do nothing.

We shut down completely. System overload.

Our brains can’t keep everything organized and we start panicking and feeling anxious.

I have a system to avoid this feeling, and ensure nothing important ever gets missed, and it only involves 2 easy rules.

Rule #1: At the end of each day, my email and text inbox is at zero.

Rule #2: Everything that requires an action is added to my todo list.

Nothing is more stressful than having backed up emails and texts that haven’t been acknowledged and cleared out yet. When I go through my emails and texts throughout the day, I immediately take one of two actions.

If it’s a simple 1 minute response that doesn’t require much, I take care of it as soon as I see it, and I delete or archive the message. If handling it is going to take longer than that, I create a task in my task manager, Todoist, then I archive or delete the message, which keeps it zeroed out and clean at all times.

Everything that requires an action goes into Todoist, and the emails/texts all get zeroed out. This keeps all action items in one place.If I get a call or verbal request, it goes straight into Todoist. No notepads or phone notes or emails sent to myself for reminders. Every task goes into Todoist.

It takes some self discipline, but it’s an easy habit to stick to once you see how helpful it is.

This system prevents the feeling of overwhelm and helps to prioritize important tasks rather than getting stuck doing small things all day just because they pop up and seem important (hint: most things aren’t!). It also eliminates the anxiety that comes with trying not to forget things because I know everything I need to do is in one easy-to-find place that I can review later.

Here’s a visual of how this works:


flow chart

Simple and effective—just the way I like it.

2. Staying focused with the Pomodoro Technique

Be honest…

How often do you find yourself jumping from task to task, half finishing things, and getting distracted with checking your email, phone, social media, etc.?

Or if you’re like me, you’ll be working on something and then all of a sudden you snap out of a daze and realize you’re no longer working, and can’t even remember how you started watching “Best of America’s Funniest Home Videos” on YouTube in the first place.

In a world of constant vibrations, notifications, texts, and phone calls always at our fingertips, it’s way too easy to get distracted while working.

It’s an epidemic.

What I personally use to stay focused on my most productive days is something called the Pomodoro Technique.

It works like this:

• You work in 25-minute time chunks (called a pomodoro) where you’re not allowed to check your phone, check email, or do anything else except the one task you’re focusing on. When you find yourself having the urge to break focus, it’s easy to remind yourself that a break is happening soon, and just keep going.

• After each pomodoro, you take a 5-minute break to do whatever you want.

• When you successfully complete a pomodoro, you make an X on a piece of paper.

• After 4 consecutive pomodoros, you take a 15-20 minute break

• Repeat

This technique has really helped me improve my focus overall, and it’s become easier to not have the urge to break focus.

That said, obviously this technique doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot if you find yourself having a hard time staying focused for long periods of time while working.

Fun fact: Pomodoro means tomato in Italian, and the inventor of the technique used a tomato-shaped countdown timer for his focused work time—hence the name, “The Pomodoro Technique.”

Implement these two things each day, and you can watch anxiety and stress from work melt away.