For a long time now I have been feeling unproductive. It’s not that I think I don’t work, just that at the end of the day/week/month, I am not happy with the amount of time I spent in front of Computer vs the amount of tangible work that comes out of it. A few days ago, Sarah Finn (CPE agile coach) reached out to me to discuss the experimental September where I was to decide 8 hours time that suits me the best and close the laptop once that time gets over. This was an optional thing of course with the goal to reduce burndown of CPE team members (CPE members are beasts when it comes to working a lot.. Good? Bad? You decide!). I liked the idea and decided to participate but on the weekend when I was thinking of what I did last week, I realized not a lot. Sarah’s idea of experimental September and me being unproductive for a week triggered my plan to try something different.
Identifying what’s wrong
Once I had determined that I was not happy with my productivity, the next obvious step was to think of potential reasons. I realised it’s because I spend too much time in front of the computer. Having 15-18 hours in hand everyday makes me procrastinate a lot – thinking I can do it later as I had till 3-4am in the morning (and weekends).
Research and options
Next step was to confirm my conlusion. I started looking over internet to see if there are people with similar experiences. With COVID-19 and a lot of people now working from home and writing about their way of working, it’s really easy to find a lot of information on this topic. From people trying 4 workdays week, restricting meetings days to 1 or 2, or trying a Wednesday weekend (see CGP grey’s video on this) there have been reports of increased productivity. I started noting down all the things I found. Now the time was to decide what could work for me and select top few things and experiment. The goal was also not to try way too many things at once to be organised and lose the track of actual reason of this (i.e. to be productive).
What am I upto
There are a few things that I have combined to come up with a plan (template) of my ideal week. I am not sure how strictly I can stick to it, but the idea is to keep it as close to the plan as possible.
I merged a few findings while working on the draft template of the week.
Use your morning to focus on yourself
Don’t start your day with emails/notifications. Grab a cup of coffee, workout (gym/yoga/walk/stretch what works the best for you), take a long shower, have a healthly breakfast and mentally plan for the day ahead.
Eat a live frog right in the morning
(No, not the David Blain way) – Get one of the big tasks/tickets item done/closed in early hours of your working time. This is a thing I would like to see how it turns out. Am I more productive in early hours or later in the day.. will update and tweak plans as I go.
I have a bad way of working with a lot of context switching. Working on something, talking on IRC/GChat/emails, doing something related to community etc. Instead of this, I want to do focus sprints with 1 and only 1 task in mind. If a task is big, break it down in smaller tasks and decide what you will be working on in the sprint (and this is where planning your day ahead comes in).
Important thing is to not overcommit. if you can’t commit to devoting time to a task, don’t put it in your schedule. Only schedule tasks you WILL do. Be brutally realistic, not idealistic when making your schedule. Thinking of day in terms of time, not the tasks you have to do. Devote time to important tasks every day. It’s hard to predict how long a task will take, so it’s hard to schedule with great precision. But the goal is to reliably schedule regular intervals of time and get into a routine.
Decide what your ideal week looks like
This is idealistic and design it in a way you think would be the best for you. Mine consists of 2 focused sprint of 1.5 hours with a lunch break of an hour in between, 1 flexible slot of 1.5 hours, an hour of community/extra stuff, half an hour of next day planning, some time to do small tasks that take <5 minutes each. No single thing works for everyone. Think how your ideal week looks like, make draft and tweak as you see fit. I already have a tweak to make in mine. You can see my draft here