My Top 5 Productivity Hacks
Some people are naturally productive, efficient, and focus for long periods of time. For me, I need to do certain things to help me focus and be productive. I’ve tinkered with several things in the past but I believe I’ve finally found my top 5 productivity hacks. These may help you too and I’ve explained them below:
Daily “to do lists” aren’t anything new, likewise, personal Kanban isn’t anything new as well (I highly recommend reading Personal Kanban). What I’ve done is combined both these concepts into what I call a “Daily Kanban”. I have a board on my Trello account called “Daily” with just three columns “to do”, “doing”, and “done”. Every morning I dedicate a few minutes to think about what I need to do (work and personal) for the day and add them into the “to do” column.
The following day, I use the same board as the previous day. I archive all cards that are currently in “done” and then decide whether I need to do the items in “to do” or “doing”. I never let items drag out for multiple days, if they do I make a decision to discard the items or think more about their complexity.
Reserved Time for Emails and Announcements
I disable all notifications I get from emails and have reserved blocked time on my calendar to catch up on them. This means that my full attention is dedicated to reading announcements and emails and giving them the attention they need and deserve. One reserved time block is my mid-morning after I’ve been working for an hour or so. I never check my emails first thing in the morning, I know this works for some people, but I find the mornings to be my most productive time, so I will try to focus on more difficult tasks during this time.
Occasionally I may get a few emails that require more thought. In that case, I will put them into my “Daily Kanban” and send an acknowledgement to the sender that I’ve received their email and I will action it soon.
I’ve pretty much eliminated paper from my life, except for journaling. Journaling with a paper and a pen helps me be more introspective and to put things into perspective by visualising and reading about my emotions or experiences. The reason I still use a paper and pen is because it takes longer to write on paper than it does to type. This means, that I think harder before putting words on paper. I also find the inconsistency in my handwriting and the location I’ve written on the page helps me to remember things better (as I remember the inconsistencies and where the words are on the page).
When I have a mentally straining problem, I will timebox solving it to ensure I’m not going into a rabbit hole. Timeboxing allows me to periodically re-state the problem I’m trying to solve and this helps me think of other solutions if the solution I’m working on is potentially inferior to others or not working. Problems don’t have to be isolated to technical ones, they can be process or people oriented as well.
I’ve tried using common techniques like the Pomodoro method and it has worked well with me in the past and in different environments. However, I’m now a bit more flexible with my timeboxing of problems as each problem is different.
Having a hobby that you’re dedicated to that’s completely different from what you do on a day-to-day basis is beneficial to productivity and can serve as protection against burn out. Many people code in their freetime and this is OK, but I think having a hobby that’s not related to code, that you can improve on, and have fun with is very important. For me, this is training.
Training is different than exercise as it requires certain goals to be attempted and achieved. For example: Training is aiming to swim 50 meters in under 30 seconds in 3 months and creating a program to meet this goal, exercise is swimming on a regular basis. Some of the hobbies my technical friends participate in are: music, knitting, or photography. I encourage you to try find something that you’re interested in as well.