I’ve discovered that my most productive work is done between the hours of 8 and 11 am. It’s when I do my best coding, feel as though I’m most creative and almost moving on autopilot.
How I Airplane Mode myself to maintain focus
My key to productivity includes switching the phone to Power Saver and Airplane Mode before my commute to work and leaving it there until 10 or 11 am.
During which time quickly I check and reply to email, review my projects for the day and usually knock out at least good hour of uninterrupted coding or design work.
Airplane Mode along with Do not Disturb blocks everything so my focus can remain on my task at hand. I find that notification spam is greatest in the morning. Apps are designed to build habits and push notifications on us as soon as we wake up pulling from important tasks.
Priority only is a good compromise to allow alarms and important contacts reach you if being completely off the grid is not an option.
It works for me and might work for you
I’ve been doing this now for a few months and find that 8am to 11am is the sweet spot where I would normally get interrupted by meaningless notifications but never anything so important that couldn’t wait until I switch back on afterwards.
Don’t be afraid to miss notifications, they’ll be there waiting when you return.
It might seem counter productive but least valuable activities should be manged and contained.
I know a professor who teaches a full schedule, writes regular articles and produces a book almost every year. I asked his spouse how he did it while remaining so responsive. It was simple, he limited his least valuable activities.
Discover your least valuable activities (LVA)
An LVA is low priority or generic unspecialized work. Basically anything anyone else can handle but somehow it was left to you to perform. First write down everything you get paid to do, if it helps assign a hourly wage value both above and below your hourly wage. Include zero for work that has no value but must be done.
Examples of my LVAs
Responding to calls, composing emails or similar activities
Unspecialized administrative work
Housekeeping or making coffee for the office 🙂
Gossip and interruptions
Sales calls and similar requests
Discover your least productive work times
I’m least productive when I arrive at work, half an hour after lunch and near the end of the day.
With this information we can schedule the lowest priority activities to keep them contained and blocked from interfering with valuable and specialized work.
Next, schedule them for no more than 25% of the day. This is my usual LVA routine.
Arrival at work and the first hour
Email, replies and similar activities
Chatting, gossip and available for likely interruptions
Administrative work and morning coffee
2pm or after lunch for a half hour
Review emails, voicemails or notifications and reply
Half an hour before end of work day
Review email and reply
Planning for tomorrow
Scheduling these hard blocks within 25% of the work day then actually performing these tasks is key. Once the allocated time has passed anything left unfinished is delayed to the next block.
This effectively batches busy work together reserving time for the real work to be performed during the other 75% of my day.
Over the last half decade I’ve developed and refined a few methods of approaching the work day and getting things done.
As a front end web developer and office administrator my workflow doesn’t fit a static routine. Coding, working with vendors, setting up and attending meetings, event and project planning. Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of “delegated to me” work. This is how I organize what I can and how I deal with everything else.
Don’t predict the workday but identify patterns and plan for chaos
I used to plan everything on a daily calendar right down to the hour only to become frustrated when I’d have to extend or reschedule. Over a year I planned everything and It was working better than using my inbox as an disorganized to do list.
Patterns started to emerge. Monday and Tuesday mornings are filled with emergencies or prioritized and re-prioritized goals and Thursdays suffered from last minute “delegated to” email dumps or procrastinated replies. Three days of the week were almost always in some sort of flux, Wednesday and Friday emerged as the two days where chaos didn’t routinely occur.
Consolidate the inboxes to a single to-do list
Digital to do lists email, hangouts, slack in person chats, meetings, post-its, phone conversations all compete against each other for your time.
The fastest method to I’ve found is to organize every thought, meeting, to-do, random task, and unplanned item into a to-do list using Bullet Journal’s Rapid Logging method into a notebook. I can then close every distraction that competes for my time and focus on a single task with fewer distractions for some time.
My lists look roughly like this.
a “bullet” • is a basic to-do item
a “dash” – is a note
an “open circle 0 is an appointment or event
If an item below is related to an item above I indent it a bit.
• Add Owen’s video to webinar page
• Build Brenda’s web form
•Fix jquery issue with forms
– Vice President left for 2 hour meeting at President’s office
– Will return at 3:30
O 2:00 p.m. governance meeting
That’s pretty much it, there are a few extra tools for calendaring long term projects and colleting reference information but I’ll save that for a later post.
Pencil or pen, doesn’t matter (It’s a plus if it can stay in my pocket without stabbing me)An A4 notebook