Time Management & Productivity
Note: This article was originally published to the Painless Prototyping Blog (now deactivated) on October 27th, 2016.
I feel that there is a lot written on these two subjects. Too much in fact. While I like to believe I could write a book’s worth of information, I think that’s overkill. Instead, I decided to write for those that wish to do what I am doing and to you, this post is dedicated. What I have laid out ahead is a collection of ideas, tools and quotes that have helped me to manage my time and be productive. I hope you can pull something out that will help you on your journey. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to throw them in the comments section.
Paralysis by Analysis
When starting a new hobby, such as learning Italian, for example, there’s lots of things to consider – podcasts, flashcards, chat programs, classes, books, magazines, videos, etc. An attempt is then made to pick the ideal tool from each category to quickly achieve fluency in Italian. What happens, more often than not, is that you head off down a rabbit hole of choices, weigh all the pros and cons, and weeks later ciao (hello in Italian) is still a foreign word. A much better alternative I have found, is to grab a tool, perhaps the first one you find, and jump into it. You’ll learn quickly whether it’s a good tool or not, acquire some Italian in the process, and know whether it would be a useful tool in the future for learning other languages or subjects. Additionally, with experience, you can more easily navigate tool selection and know which could be helpful or not at a quick glance.
Utilize Your Time
Take a look at your day, analyze where you are not utilizing your time, and make adjustments. The best way to elaborate on this is to give examples. When I’m cooking, my hands are busy but my eyes and ears, not so much so. Therefore, I like to relax and watch something on my laptop before sitting down to work after I eat or load up a video lecture and learn something new. Other underutilized times throughout my day include commuting to work, taking lunch breaks, and showering.
Two of my favorite quotes are
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can finish today. – Benjamin Franklin
‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired, Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up. But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse. – Eminem
Find a Productive Place
Take a look at the places where you work, are they actually productive? Are you checking your phone every few minutes or chatting with your roommate? Paralysis by analysis (see above) can definitely come into play here in terms of how clean, quiet, organized, whatever your space is, so it’s important to have a roughly productive space. If you’re spending half an hour cleaning your desk before sitting down to work, that’s not being productive. Some of my favorite places to work are the library, outside, a bar, a cafe, my hackspace, and the desk in my room.
15 Minutes a Day
There’s a difference between motivation and discipline. I’ll let this eloquent reply I stole from Reddit explain my feelings…
With that said, the 15 Minutes a Day rule is my favorite way of dealing with a lack of motivation. Often, I’ll come home from work and attempt to get working on a project but will opt to play video games or watch TV instead. What I’ve found, is if you promise yourself to sit down for 15 minutes of work each day, worst case you’ll have put in 15 minutes of work on a project, best case, your attitude will change and you’ll get sucked into the project and before you know it, it’s bed time.
Sometimes I feel a somewhat crushing weight of all the things I have to do floating around in my head. Todo lists are a great way to get those thoughts out of your head. I prefer to use Google Keep and have lists for tonight, this weekend, at work, etc. I also like to add reminders to them so that once I get home, I’m notified that I have some task(s) to do.
5 Minute Tasks
If you have some task that can be completed in under 5 minutes, do it now. Stop being lazy. You’ll thank yourself later and it won’t loom over you.
New Years every Month
I hate New Year’s Resolutions, mainly for the type of people that get gym memberships on January 1st. “This year I’ll do it…” When failure inevitably comes to these people it’s always “maybe next year”. I on the other hand am a fan of New Years every month. At the end of every month (or week), I like to take a look back and see what I achieved and give myself a pat on the back, and what I failed at and plan to continue to improve in the coming month. Better to try and fail 12 (or 52) times in a year than just once a year. It is important to set yourself up for more opportunities to succeed. Some goals I have failed only a few times at, others have taken me a bit longer, but I never give up and keep at it.