7 Best Productivity Systems to Simplify Your Workflow (+My Favorite Workflows)

I’m a content writer by night and a Head of Partnerships by day, and in my world, being productive is everything.

I’m a content writer by night and a Head of Partnerships by day, and in my world, being productive is everything.

No scheduling or a lack of project management leads to overdue articles, failed partnership opportunities, high pressure, and stress. We’ve all been there, recovering from zero productivity.

Productivity systems help develop a sustainable work-life balance and prepare for working sprints when needed.

In this post, I’m sharing the seven best productivity systems that have become part of my routine, turning the daily grind into an efficient workday. You’ll find their pros and cons and different use cases.

Download our complete workplace productivity guide here.

 

What are productivity systems?

Productivity systems are methods and tools that assist you in getting things done efficiently. They don’t do the work for you, but they help you organize and prioritize tasks and your well-being, resulting in more productivity at a given time.

For instance, productivity systems help you with:

  • Breaking down projects into smaller, manageable steps.
  • Focusing and avoiding distractions.
  • Goal setting.
  • Organization and workflow.

Let’s explore the seven productivity systems I use and how they help me.

7 Productivity Systems to Simplify Your Workflow

1. The Pomodoro Technique

I’m simply in love with this method for supercharging my productivity when I struggle to pull myself together and get things done. It instantly activates my focus mode, and I become so in the zone that nothing can distract me.

How does it work?

The Pomodoro Technique breaks your work into short, focused intervals (typically 25 minutes) followed by breaks. It helps you stay sharp and motivated because 25-minute chunks are easily digestible by your brain.

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Also, seeing a timer counting down in your toolbar reinforces your willingness to complete a task during this time. It’s like your inner voice says, “Com’on, man, you can work for 25 minutes without scrolling your Instagram.”

I use the Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant Chrome extension to make the Pomodoro technique easily accessible. 30-minute timers with a 5-minute rest — that’s my rule.

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But often, I don’t take breaks and simply continue working on my task until it’s done. And when the timer rings, I set another one to stay focused.

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I also use Pomodoro for time-tracking when I work on a specific task to understand my workload and time spent on task X.

It aids immensely in proper time estimation and project management.

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Pros:

  • Helps you focus when it’s hard to start working.
  • Reduces procrastination.
  • Less back pain and fatigue.
  • Better planning for weeks and quarters.
  • More accountability for tasks.
  • Fewer distractions — better time management.
  • Consistent motivation throughout tasks.

Cons:

  • None. I’ve been using this method for ages, and it’s always helpful.

Best for: Anyone who wants to manage time better and get more done in less time.

My Verdict

At first, it was hard for me to accept the breaks. I was feeling like I was wasting time during those periods. But then I realized their power — those breaks literally recharge me.

2. Bullet Journaling

A bullet journal, or so-called BuJo, is like an advanced diary that includes writing and drawing. It’s organized with sections for daily tasks, calendars, notes, health tracking, and goal setting.

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I’ve recently stumbled upon great research exploring how bullet journaling impacts creativity and productivity. The conclusion is that it doesn’t just help with staying organized but also with reflecting on what’s really important.

I also love the piece by a teacher who shared how bullet journaling helped her overcome perfectionism. So, if you’re chasing that elusive perfection, take a read. 🙂

From time to time, I use bullet journaling for planning my days, understanding how packed I am, and carving out time for things I love to do apart from my job. It’s also helped me understand how many projects I can take on.

For example, I draft my schedule in a super old-fashioned way in my paper notebook. So, my bullet journaling usually goes like this:

7:30 — wake up
8:00 — yoga
10:00 — offer an outline for client X
11:00 — interview experts for HubSpot’s article
13:00 — lunch break
14:00 — work for a charitable fund
17:30 — meeting

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If you’re not into old-school productivity methods, you can check out digital alternatives like Notion, Trello, Evernote, or Miro.

In my opinion, Miro is the coolest option because it reminds you of a regular notebook. It allows you to easily move items and fosters creativity.

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Pros:

  • Helps with customizable organization.
  • Assists in boosting creativity and aids prioritization.
  • Provides centralized task management.
  • Facilitates self-reflection.

Cons:

  • Time-intensive upkeep.
  • Risk of inconsistency.

Best for: Creatives, visual thinkers, and individuals seeking personalized organization.

My Verdict

Bullet journaling is a practice many of us have instinctively done at some point in our lives. Let’s say for planning trips, shopping, workout routines, or similar activities.

The trick is learning to do it more systematically. Sometimes, I rely completely on it. Other times, I use bullet journaling just as a scratchpad when transferring information from paper to my project management apps.

3. Calendar Blocking

The major issue people often face with their schedule is constantly switching between tasks. Calendar blocking is a time management method where you allocate specific time slots on your calendar for different tasks.

For instance, my workday before calendar blocking could look like this: I start writing an article. Then, after half an hour, I jump into a meeting. Next, I move to my emails. Finally, I get back to the article. Not effective at all.

Todoist’s graphic perfectly explains my point:

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For time blocking, I use Google Calendar and block time for specific tasks. Each task gets its own focused time slot. Doctor appointments, yoga, and reading also go to my calendar.

The result? I get more done faster.

Here are some tips for successful calendar blocking:

  • Divide your day into chunks for specific tasks.
  • Be realistic about how long tasks will take; overestimate if unsure.
  • Schedule breaks to avoid burnout; don’t overbook free time.
  • Adjust plans if needed due to unexpected events.
  • Review and follow your planned tasks regularly.
  • Consider using apps like Todoist and Google Calendar for better organization.

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Pros:

  • Improved time management.
  • Enhanced focus.
  • Reduced task switching.
  • Clearer prioritization.
  • Better work-life balance.

Cons:

  • Difficulty in adapting to changes.
  • Potential for under-/overestimating task duration.

Best for: Anyone with multiple tasks and commitments to organize.

My Verdict

Calendar blocking organizes your working and free time and allows you not to get lost in multiple tasks at the same time. The biggest challenge could be sitting down on Sunday night or every Monday morning and preparing everything up front.

But it’s definitely worth it.

4. Eat the Frog

“If you have to eat a live frog, do it first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.”Mark Twain

This quote explains what the Eat the Frog technique is all about. Do the hardest thing first, and everything else later will seem easier.

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Last year’s study found that using this method improves soft skills and helps combat procrastination, leading to long-term benefits for career and life.

I totally agree with that and implement the Eat the Frog method almost every day.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. I pick my frog first — the most important but not urgent task. I go with the one that needs a lot of brainpower.
  2. I usually select a task I can finish in 1 to 4 hours max.
  3. I split big tasks into smaller steps.
  4. I always focus on today’s tasks, not far-off ones.
  5. And finally, I begin my day by tackling my frog task first.

Pros:

  • Get tough tasks done first.
  • Feel less stressed.
  • Manage time better.
  • Build good habits.

Cons:

  • Starting with the hardest task may lead to fatigue.
  • It could lead to overlooking time-sensitive matters.

Best for: Anyone who prefers to deal with challenges upfront rather than procrastinate or for anyone struggling with procrastination when it comes to difficult tasks.

My Verdict

When I’ve got those tough tasks to chew (the ones that need tons of focus, numbers, and research), I make them my top priority in the morning. Once I’ve tackled that, I can relax with a cup of coffee, catch up on emails, and move on to one more task.

I tried doing it the other way around, but I just couldn’t focus on anything else while knowing I had that big task waiting. So, for me, the “Eat the Frog” technique is the only way to go.

5. Project Management Practices

When I started freelancing, managing one or two projects without tracking wasn’t too hard. But as my workload grew, it became impossible.

Today, I can’t imagine my work routine without project management tools — Monday and Asana are my productivity lifelines.

They help me break tasks down, set deadlines, track progress, coordinate with my team, and deliver results.

I use Monday to plan and prioritize my weekly tasks for a charitable fund’s work in a simplified Kanban visualization with “Backlog,” “In progress,” and “Done” tabs.

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What I like: Monday takes care of the project management essentials like subtasks, flexible statuses, owners and assignees, API integrations, etc.

As for Asana, I mostly use it for client writing and SEO projects. It’s so simple to get and assign tasks, track project progress, and communicate with others through the platform.

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Pros:

  • Centralize project information for easy access.
  • Facilitate team communication and idea sharing.
  • Help you break projects into manageable tasks.
  • Keep your team focused and productive.
  • Provide real-time data on project progress.
  • Automate tasks for streamlined workflows.

Cons:

  • I see nothing but benefits to using project management software. Learning how to use it might take time, but once you do, it becomes super easy.

Best for: Individuals, teams, and projects of all sizes. You can use it for small tasks or large-scale initiatives.

My Verdict

Although I like using my notebook for bullet journaling, PM tools help keep my work under control with notifications, reminders, repeated tasks, etc.

6. The Eisenhower Decision Matrix

“I have two kinds of problems — the urgent and important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix categorizes tasks by importance and urgency. I use it to decide what to focus on, delegate, or discard.

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You should consider using the Eisenhower Matrix if you’re often busy but feel your work lacks impact, struggle with time for long-term goals, or find it hard to delegate or say “no” (been there, done that).

I recently watched a YouTube video by Naomi from Todoist, where she shared insightful tips on the Eisenhower Matrix:

[Video: Beginner’s Guide to the Eisenhower Matrix]

Here’s how she explains each of these four categories:

  1. Quadrant 1 important tasks needing urgent attention.
  2. Quadrant 2 important tasks for long-term goals.
  3. Quadrant 3 — urgent tasks that aren’t very important, often just busy work.
  4. Quadrant 4 tasks neither urgent nor important, providing instant but no lasting satisfaction.

And here’s how I apply this approach in my day-to-day work:

  1. Quadrant 1. I prioritize meeting tight deadlines for articles.
  2. Quadrant 2. I dedicate time to improving my writing and research skills for long-term progress.
  3. Quadrant 3. Sometimes, if I’m too busy, I let a reliable person handle expert interviews for me.
  4. Quadrant 4. I try to avoid spending too much time on social media to stay focused.

Pros:

  • Clear prioritization.
  • Effective time management.
  • Long-term goal alignment.
  • Better delegation.
  • Reduced stress.
  • Improved decision-making.

Cons:

  • At first, it might be tough to decide which tasks are more important with a bigger impact but less urgency. After several practices, one gets used to the system and harvests tangible benefits.

Best for: Organizing obligations; particularly helpful for anyone who struggles with task prioritization, time management, or decision-making.

My Verdict

The sense of urgency posed the greatest challenge during my digital marketing career. It felt like every task demanded immediate attention. My default mode was “ASAP” for everything until I learned to categorize priorities and discern non-priority tasks.

That’s what I learned thanks to The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, and, in my opinion, it’s one of the best productivity systems out there.

7. Kanban and Scrum Methods

To be super productive during a workweek, I combine simplified Scrum and Kanban methodologies.

Scrum: You work in short bursts called sprints (usually one to four weeks long). In each sprint, you set goals and decide what tasks to tackle. Then, you have quick meetings called stand-ups to check progress and adjust your work plan as needed.

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Kanban: There are no sprints in Kanban. Instead, imagine your tasks on a board with columns labeled “Backlog,” “Doing,” “Review,” and “Done.”

As you work, you shift tasks between columns. It helps you visualize your workflow, limit work in progress, and focus on completing tasks one by one.

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Here’s how I do it:

Every Monday, I review my Backlog with ideas and tasks that have appeared randomly throughout the previous week, assign priorities and due dates, create subtasks, etc.

Every Friday, I look at my board in the PM tool Monday, a task manager, and analyze why I’m off schedule for some tasks and how to address the cause.

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This helps me to be agile, complete as many tasks as fit within a work week (realistically), and spot bottlenecks or roadblocks.

Pros:

  • Helps visualize workflows easily.
  • Limits multitasking and improves focus.
  • Encourages ongoing process improvement.
  • Organizes projects effectively with clear goals.
  • Fosters regular team communication and collaboration.
  • Facilitates adaptation to changing project needs.

Cons:

  • A lack of defined deadlines may lead to delays.
  • Rigidity in sprint timelines (Scrum) may cause stress.

Best for: Environments that value flexibility and adaptability over strict timelines.

📍Note: Implementing the two systems at a time is called Scrumban.

My Verdict

Combining these two methods helps me visualize what I have to do in the Kanban board, while the Scrum sprints help me to make lots of progress on particular projects. I like the balance the two systems bring to my work, which is largely independent and remote.

What’s the best productivity system?

Although every productivity system has its merits, my personal favorites are:

  • The Pomodoro Technique for keeping me focused with 30-minute working sprints and 5-minute breaks.
  • The Eisenhower Decision Matrix for simple organization of urgent and important tasks.
  • Scrumban for regular progress check-ups.

No matter which system you choose, the only thing that matters is that it truly helps improve your productivity. I combine three of them on a daily basis, and I think that’s the best approach for completing the jobs to be done, ideating new projects, and tracking my team’s progress.

Try a few, see what fits and what doesn’t, and ultimately, you’ll find your best solution to avoid mental blocks, demotivation, and burnout.

 

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