Monday, 31 December 2012

On being productive

I thought I'd start 2013 reading around the topic of productivity at work.  I was looking for new ideas and testing my own assumptions. After a fair amount of reading, this is where I ended up.

General principles

  • Productivity means different things to different people
  • Learning styles matter; so there's no point in promoting one method as the best - it needs to fit the style of the person, and their workplace. People who shout about a specific system are those who discovered something so perfect that works for them - this doesn't mean it will work for everyone else
  • A home office and freelance lifestyle is not the same as a 9-5 office job

What I do already, that works for me, that I will continue
  • When I am with a client I do only that client's business; I stay present (and this means being organised, not doing email etc)
  • Don't do work email after 5pm on a Friday and before 7am on a Monday. I've learnt that even if I've been away for a week, I can get through it all in a couple of hours on Monday morning
  • Don't accept paid work on a Monday. This means I don't travel on a Sunday (which is important to me). It also means I have Monday to get sorted, do admin, meet my Mum for lunch, go to the Post Office, read a book, research papers etc.
  • When I'm in my home office I try to do one task before turning on the computer (filing, reading a paper, tidying up), then one task before opening my email (designing an agenda, writing ppt or paper).
  • Use lists. I have a "lab book" which usually has all my lists in it but I have been using the Allen Getitdone app which syncs my lists across PC, iPad, smartphone. I'm not entirely certain I like it but will keep trying it for another 3 months. I do like the way you can send emails to it, then schedule working with them.
  • Work with my energy. I'm a morning person. I know I do very little between 11:30 and 2:30 pm so I don't bother any more. I go for a walk or lie on the sofa and read a book.
  • I don't try to work while I travel. The results are never good. So I sleep, relax and read. This does mean I need to put preparation time into my diary. I've always felt that preparing while travelling is not giving the work my proper attention.
  • Finally, my favourite productivity technique is the Pomodoro method. You work (set timer) for 25 mins, then take a 5 minute break - and repeat. Do one thing in the 25mins (like this blog post). After a few repeats, take a 15 minute break.  I divide my productive time into these 25 minute blocks. And have 3 of them during the day for doign my email.  You can download a Chrome Pomodoro extension to be the timekeeper.
What new ideas I got from my reading
  • not so much new as a reminder - exercise is good for me. So I shall put in the diary.
  • turn off the Twitter alerts!!

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