Here’s the second installment of our ultimate productivity hacking guide where we’ve gathered the best task list tips, tricks, and insights from the experts for optimizing your task list and life (here’s Part I if you missed it, and stay tuned for Part III coming soon).

PART II: Overcoming Task List Barriers

So now you’re familiar with our daily approach to getting things done on your task list. Here we go a little deeper to tackle problems as they arise. Sometimes you’re working too slow, not creatively enough, or just can’t crack a tough problem. Use this second part of the guide to troubleshoot productivity stalls.

I have to be fast(er)

Break the seal of hesitation – The vast majority of creatives have a bias toward action. That’s why it’s important to just start, even if it’s a half-hearted attempt, to get the gears going. (See the first tip in “I have to be creative” below)

Decide quickly, change slowly – Train yourself to make fast decisions and then stick with them. It may feel awkward at first but over time your quick decisions will get better and better, and you won’t waste time rethinking things.

Split up large tasks on your task list and start – Large tasks that aren’t first broken down can make them feel bigger and harder than they actually are. Break down the first few steps in your task list so you’re not overwhelmed later.

Block similar items in your task list together – An easy way to save time is by not switching gears. Do emails, meetings, and research in combined chunks of time to get more done, faster. User Tip: @M1keJone5: @AnyDO Use the Gmail extension to add reminders for email you need to deal with then file the email to keep inbox clear.

I have to be creative

Make a bad first draft – Giving yourself permission to create a bad first draft lifts the pressure standing in your way. It’s a good trick for breaking the hesitation barrier & what you end up with is usually not that bad.

Ask questions – If you’ve hit a wall, chances are you aren’t asking enough questions. Keep asking until you start to feel a direction emerging.

Wait until the end of the day – Your brain is better at creative work when you’re tired because it begins to ignore distractions and see problems from a big picture context.

Do busy work – Let your subconscious work on the creative task at hand by getting lost in simple, repetitious work like vacuuming. User Tip: Carl N. Woody: Less than 20: Keep a folder of projects that can be done in twenty minutes or less. When you finish another big project early, you can check an item or two off in the less than 20 folder.

Clench your left hand – Clenching your left hand activates the right hemisphere where you do much of your creative thinking. User Tip: @DuskMind: I put 1- to 2-sentence writing prompts in at random points to keep my mind creative.

I have to solve a problem

The right kind of music – Pair music with your task list. Playing uptempo music gets your left brain going. Try to include songs in major keys and even create a Music list along your regular task list in

Question your assumptions – Einstein famously said “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Instead of starting with the solution, begin by questioning the assumptions and limits of the problem.

Explain it to someone who doesn’t understand – Find someone outside of your office/ industry/ family and try to explain the issue to them in the simplest terms possible. Breaking down the problem for someone else can gently reframe your thinking for a faster solution.

Clench your right hand – Analysis and problem solving often requires you to consume a lot of information. Improve your memory and recall by clenching your right hand and activating the left side of your brain.

Change of scenery – Not your usual destinations… try the same places that inspire(d) some great thinkers.

  • Hotel Room (Maya Angelou)
  • Car (Gertrude Stein, while watching cows)
  • Basement (John Cheever) User Tip: @cecilialu: My favourite #AnyDoProductivity tip: recurring reminder to call my grandma in China, directly linking through Skype!


If you missed Part I of the Productivity Playbook, click here. Otherwise, stay tuned for our final installment in Part III where we show you how to master your task list for good.


Sources: 99U, Economic Times, Sparring Mind, Mashable, Psychology Today, Psychology Today (2), Psychology Today (3)Fast Company, Fast Company (2)Buffer Blog, Spark Productivity