As the year draws to an end, many of us are reviewing things that went well and making plans to improve in the coming year. For me, as is often the case, I am pondering how I can become more productive and achieve more of my goals. My starting point for this “reflection” will be a review of the many different approaches that people take to become more productive. There are many paths that lead to productivity, and different people focus on different aspects of their lives to achieve that enhanced throughput we’re all looking for. It’s not that any particular strategy is “right” or better than the others, though – it’s a matter of knowing yourself and figuring out which of these approaches, or combinations of approaches, will suit your way of thinking.

One writer whose approach I particularly like is David Kadavy. The proof that he was on to something with his posts came when he was asked to advise a startup called Timeful, which was very quickly acquired by Google. David’s idea is that time management is really about mind management, and so you should know how your brain works and plan out your work taking into account the different moments you go through during a day or week. Pretty good stuff, that I wish I could incorporate more of into my schedule. He has a very useful “summary post” that links to all of his writing on the subject, start with that one.

Though focused on how to make startups use their time better, Marty Hu’s “Startup’s Guide to Time Hacking” has plenty of valuable advice for individuals. Originally published on Predictive Edge’s blog, Marty moved it over to a personal blog after Dropbox acquired the company. I think the focus on automating stuff that you should not be doing at all is a very powerful lesson, which in fact comes all the way from Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week.

I have also long been a fan of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog. In particular, he has a methodology of his own called Zen Productivity which outlines some simple steps to get you into a healthy state of mind to better manage your time. Leo’s approach, as is the case with most of his writing, advocates for clearing your mind and focusing on finding the right thing to do, and then doing only one thing at a time.

Another interesting approach to become more productive that Zen Productivity hints at is meditation. I have tried it myself this year for a short period, and it does seem like a good way to help you focus and get more done. Meditation is already over its “hype peak” as a fad in online circles, and there are plenty of personal accounts from people who have become big fans of the practice – Loic Le Meur springs to mind. The most popular way to get started is Headspace, a product that combines a mobile app with online learning materials that will gradually introduce you to more advanced ways to tune out. This is certainly one area that I would like to explore more over the coming year, as its benefits go beyond mere productivity and extend into other areas of your life.

These are the different “schools of thought” about productivity and time management that I will be drawing from to come up with some strategies to become more productive and reach more of my goals in the coming year. As I said, none of them are perfect or better than the others, it’s a matter of combining what you learn from each into a package that makes sense to how your brain works and that fits into your individual routine.

Also, notice that at this point I’m not even considering specific techniques – I suppose you cold say I’m still at the strategic level and techniques are tactics. I will try to continue documenting my findings as my journey towards productivity continues…

What about you, what is your approach to being more productive and making better, more strategic, use of your time?