Rebooting productivity

Every new year gives you an opportunity to sit back, relax, have some scotch and re-think the passed year. Holidays give you enough free time. Even if you decide to not take a vacation around the holidays, it's usually calm and peaceful.

This time, I found myself thinking mostly about productivity, being effective, feeling busy, overwhelmed with work and other related topics.

When I started at Mozilla (almost 6 years ago!), I tried to apply all my GTD and time management knowledge and techniques. Working remotely and in a different time zone was an advantage - I had close to zero interruptions. It worked perfect.

Last year I realized that my productivity skills had faded away somehow. 40h+ workweeks, working on weekends, delivering goals in the last week of quarter don't sound like good signs. Instead of being productive I felt busy.

"Every crisis is an opportunity". Time to make a step back and reboot myself. Burning out at work is not a good idea. :)

Here are some ideas/tips that I wrote down for myself you may found useful.

Concentration

  • Task #1: make a daily plan. No plan - no work.
  • Don't start your day by reading emails. Get one (little) thing done first - THEN check your email.
  • Try to define outcomes, not tasks. "Ship XYZ" instead of "Work on XYZ".
  • Meetings are time consuming, so "Set a goal for each meeting". Consider skipping a meeting if you don't have any goal set, unless it's a beer-and-tell meeting! :)
  • Constantly ask yourself if what you're working on is important.
  • 3-4 times a day ask yourself whether you are doing something towards your goal or just finding something else to keep you busy. If you want to look busy, take your phone and walk around the office with some papers in your hand. Everybody will think that you are a busy person! This way you can take a break and look busy at the same time!
  • Take breaks! Pomodoro technique has this option built-in. Taking breaks helps not only to avoid RSI, but also keeps your brain sane and gives you time to ask yourself the questions mentioned above. I use Workrave on my laptop, but you can use a real kitchen timer instead.
  • Wear headphones, especially at office. Noise cancelling ones are even better. White noise, nature sounds, or instrumental music are your friends.

(Home) Office

  • Make sure you enjoy your work environment. Why on the earth would you spend your valuable time working without joy?!
  • De-clutter and organize your desk. Less things around - less distractions.
  • Desk, chair, monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc - don't cheap out on them. Your health is more important and expensive. Thanks to mhoye for this advice!

Other

  • Don't check email every 30 seconds. If there is an emergency, they will call you! :)
  • Reward yourself at a certain time. "I'm going to have a chocolate at 11am", or "MFBT at 4pm sharp!" are good examples. Don't forget, you are Pavlov's dog too!
  • Don't try to read everything NOW. Save it for later and read in a batch.
  • Capture all creative ideas. You can delete them later. ;)
  • Prepare for next task before break. Make sure you know what's next, so you can think about it during the break.

This is my list of things that I try to use everyday. Looking forward to see improvements!

I would appreciate your thoughts this topic. Feel free to comment or send a private email.

Happy Productive New Year!

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