Work & Productivity

Protecting most valuable activities by prioritizing the least

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
  • Social media
  • 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
  • Project planning

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
  • Minor tasks

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.

Desktop & Wallpaperimage

Vivaldi looks at home on Peppermint 7

The color scheme, the workflow and customization options for tab grouping, note taking, tiling windows. Everything is feels so practical.

Tiled windows is a killer feature I’d like to see on Firefox.

For instance while editing this post I can make tweaks and reload the live page. When you work in WordPress all day like I do it’s a very practical feature.

Work & Productivity

How I Work – An analog notebook

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.

Left: The entire month with first letter of the day of week at a glance. Right: A daily rapid logged bullet journal. Everything I note or have to do is collected in real 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.

05.07.17 Sunday

  • • 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.

My Hardware

      Pencil or pen, doesn’t matter (It’s a plus if it can stay in my pocket without stabbing me)An A4 notebook

Leuchtturm1917 notebook

    or similar with enough pages to last several months. (Small enough for travel or to keep at the desk)

  • A Field Notes  or Word. memo notebook for actual travel as it will fit in just about any pocket.