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9 Proven Techniques for Storytellers to Master Time and Productivity

When the worlds of creativity and commerce collide, mastering time becomes the secret to success. It’s the thin line between a story that sizzles and one that fizzles, the difference between a thriving business and one barely surviving. 

But when inspiration strikes at the most unexpected moments and distractions lurk in every digital corner, how do you harness your productivity and stay on track?

Fucking off at the keyboard is my kryptonite. If you can relate, keep reading. As someone who’s naturally scatterbrained, I’ve had to develop a suite of systems that work, because let’s face it — not all methods or moods are created equal.

I’ve personally tested and trusted all nine of the techniques below to get shit done, even when motivation is harder to find than Waldo at a candy cane convention.

Pomodoro Technique: Harness the Power of Sprints

This time management method is a game-changer for those days when your to-do list is longer than that book you’ve been meaning to read but your attention span is like a caffeinated squirrel on a sugar rush. 

The Pomodoro Technique breaks your workday into bite-sized, intensely-focused sessions, punctuated by short breaks to recharge your mental batteries.

Choose a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and work with single-minded focus until it dings. Reward yourself with a five-minute break to stretch, grab a snack, or do the Macarena. After four pomodoros, treat yourself to a longer break of 15-30 minutes. It’s like interval training for your brain, helping you maintain peak performance and avoid burnout.

The real magic of this technique is how it gamifies your work. Each completed pomodoro is a small win, a tangible marker of progress that keeps you motivated and engaged. By breaking your day into manageable chunks, you can bypass the natural overwhelm and procrastination that often comes with facing a daunting task.

PRO TIP: I personally prefer 30-minute pomodoros instead of 25, and I aim for six of them before taking a much longer break for rest and lunch. Experiment with the timing to find your productivity sweet spot.

ABCDE Method: Prioritize Like a Pro

Not all tasks are created equal. Some are the VIPs of your to-do list, demanding immediate attention and red carpet treatment. Others are background extras, barely warranting a second glance. 

The ABCDE Method helps you sort the vital from the trivial, ensuring you’re always focusing on what matters most.

Take your to-do list and assign each task a letter from A to E. 

  • A tasks are the most critical, and will have serious consequences if not completed. 
  • B tasks are important but not as urgent.
  • C tasks are nice to do but have no significant impact. 
  • D tasks can be delegated.
  • E tasks can be eliminated altogether.

Once you’ve categorized your tasks, tackle them in order of importance. This simple act of prioritization can be transformative, helping you cut through the noise and focus on the work that truly moves the needle. By consistently choosing the essential over the ephemeral, you’ll find yourself making meaningful progress on your goals, rather than just spinning your wheels.

The 2-Minute Rule: Conquering Procrastination, One Task at a Time

We’ve all been there — staring at a task that seems so small, so simple, and yet somehow so daunting. A nagging email that needs a quick response, a stupid form that needs filling out, an annoying phone call that needs to be made. 

Minor tasks have a way of piling up, creating a mountain of mental clutter that can be paralyzing. The 2-Minute Rule is a weapon to defeat the enemy of procrastination. 

It’s simple: if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it right away instead of adding it to your to-do list. Don’t even delegate the task — just get that shit done. 

This approach rules because it capitalizes on the power of momentum. By knocking out these small tasks immediately, you create a sense of progress and accomplishment that can carry you through your larger, more complex work.

I don’t follow the 2-Minute Rule every day, but the days when I do are better 100% of the time. 

Pareto Principle: Doing More With Less

You may have heard of the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. It’s the idea that, in many areas of life, roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. In terms of productivity, this means that a small number of your tasks (the vital 20%) are likely to yield the majority of your results and progress.

The challenge is obviously identifying those crucial tasks. Look at your goals and ask yourself, What are the 20% of activities that will get me 80% of the way to my goal? Then focus your efforts and energy there.

Once you’ve identified your vital 20%, the next step is to eliminate or reduce the trivial many — the 80% of tasks contributing little to your overall success. This doesn’t mean these tasks are necessarily unimportant, but they may not be the best use of your limited time and energy. 

By prioritizing the crucial over the trivial, you unlock the ability to accomplish significantly more with minimal exertion. Years of refinement have led me to this pinnacle of productivity, validating every step with tangible success. 

It’s taken me many years to get as dialed in about this as I am now, but considering my results, the effort is certainly worth it. 

The 3-3-3 Method: Balancing Progress and Productivity

Productivity isn’t about getting more done — it’s about getting the right things done, and with the proper balance. The 3-3-3 Method is a way of structuring your day to ensure progress on your long-term goals, mastery of immediate tasks, and handling of those indispensable day-to-day operations and periodic responsibilities that maintain your momentum over time.

  • Spend three hours on deep, focused work — the kind that moves your key projects and goals forward (writing, strategizing, or creating). 
  • Dedicate another block to three shorter, tactical tasks — the kind of work that keeps your business running smoothly (responding to key emails, updating your project management tool, checking in with your collaborators). 
  • Finish with a trio of maintenance tasks: repetitive, recurring activities that are necessary but not necessarily urgent, like updating your website, organizing your files, or learning a new skill.

By balancing these three types of work, you ensure that you’re not just being busy, but truly productive. You’re making meaningful progress on your long-term objectives, staying on top of your immediate responsibilities, and investing in the ongoing health and efficiency of your work.

Eat the Frog: Tackling the Tough Stuff First

Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Think of your “frog” as your most challenging, daunting task — the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on.

Getting your most difficult work out of the way early sets a tone of accomplishment for the rest of your day. I need to capitalize on my morning energy and willpower, because it diminishes by the hour. I don’t think I’m alone there. 

If you have multiple frogs, grab the biggest, ugliest fucker off of his lily pad and tackle the task that will have the most positive impact on your work and goals. By prioritizing based on importance and impact, you’ll make the most of your time and energy.

Because I block my time (see below), this is not a strategy I follow for my workflow, but it is one I use constantly in my life. Put another way, if something needs to be done eventually, it should be done immediately. That includes having difficult conversations, regardless of how much I might not want to have them. I need my brain space to be as clutter-free as possible. 

Task Batching: Maximizing Focus and Flow

How often do you find yourself jumping between different types of tasks — writing prose or copy or emails, managing your calendar, hopping on a call, then getting back to the writing.  

It might feel productive to constantly switch gears, but this kind of task-switching is totally bullshit and it comes with a significant cognitive cost. Your brain is forced to recalibrate with every shift in focus, and that leads to mental fatigue and decreased productivity over time.

Instead of jumping between different types of tasks, group similar tasks together and complete them in dedicated batches. You might set aside time in the morning for your writing, time in the afternoon for your emails, and an afternoon block dedicated to calls and meetings.

By batching your tasks in this way, you minimize the cognitive costs of switching and allow yourself to enter a state of deep focus and flow. You’re able to work more efficiently and effectively, as your brain isn’t constantly trying to reorient itself to new contexts and demands.

This is not natural for me because I love to pretend that I’m effectively multitasking, but every single time I’ve ever measured my results, hitting my tasks randomly sucks just about as hard as you probably imagine. 

Time Blocking: Designing Your Ideal Day

If task batching is about grouping similar tasks together, time blocking is about designing your entire day for maximum productivity. A method of scheduling where you divide your available time into blocks, each dedicated to specific activities.

Identify the key types of work you need to engage in, then consider when you’re at your best for each type of work to architect your ideal day. If your creative energy is highest in the morning, block off those early hours for deep, focused work. If you tend to have the most energy for meetings and collaboration in the afternoon, schedule your meetings for that time.

Be proactive and intentional about how you structure your day. Instead of reacting to incoming demands, manage your priorities and energy levels to work more efficiently, avoid burnout, and ensure you’re always making progress on your most important goals.

This is the method I use most, and I’m practically dogmatic about. 

  • Mornings are Maker Time; I create from whenever I wake up until my lunch break. My mind is especially fertile first thing in the morning, so I always start with a new idea, before moving onto the novel, screenplay, client work, Campfire posts, or whatever else I’m working on.
  • Early afternoons are my Me Time, when I eat lunch with Cindy before we take a siesta. 
  • Late afternoons are Manager Time: Slack, email, LinkedIn, meetings of all kinds. 

Time blocking is not about managing the clock so much as crafting the canvas of your day with the precision of a master artist.

Ultimately, productivity is about creating the space and freedom to do your best work, more than just getting things done.

Mastering these techniques and knowing when to use them will help you to consistently craft a legacy instead of simply ticking boxes, one focused hour at a time.