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How to Be Productive Without Schedules or Structure

How to be productive

To squeeze a lot of tasks into a little time, many people follow a strict schedule that allows them to power through a busy to-do list. Other people, however, can't stand that much structure. They march to their own beat.

If you're one of those people, being productive can be challenging, according to Harvard Business Review contributor Elizabeth Grace Saunders. "A lot of individuals with a rebellious streak resist structure, snub the idea of a schedule, and then find that their lives and creative output aren't nearly as harmonious as they hoped," she says.

The solution isn't necessarily a schedule. Rather, it's a cadence. "If you … find it hard to accept -- and even harder to follow -- a standard routine, maybe it's time to stop thinking about managing your time as developing a set of strict rules to follow, and start thinking about increasing productivity as a process of finding and cultivating your unique creative rhythm -- your life cadence," Saunders continues. "A way of being where there's a central theme and recognizable melody, but also room for improvisation and blending in harmonies."

For instance, your monthly cadence might be accomplishing one big work project or one personal milestone per month.

"I'm not suggesting that this is the only thing you do in a given month, but these are the size XL tasks, like deciding on a new software and implementing it or organizing your studio space," Saunders concludes. "If you tell yourself that you'll do three items of this stature in a month, you'll probably make little progress on any of them. If you commit to one specifically for the month, there's a high probability that you'll accomplish it or get close to finishing in the four weeks. Honor that monthly project cadence, and you'll feel much more satisfied."