“I don’t know how you do it…” my good friend James said with a shake of his head.”I feel like I can barely get any work done, and I’ve had my best ideas when I’m away from the computer.” explains Ian Mausner
“I’d love to know your secret,” he continued, “But it just seems impossible that you have time for all of that stuff on top of being a great developer. You’re one of those people that are always doing something interesting… how do you do it?”
He wasn’t wrong. My friends would often tease me about being some kind of robot because I seemed to be able to put out more effort, with fewer hours than anyone else they knew. They were half right – there was definitely some kind of superpower involved, but it wasn’t magical superpowers or anything like that. It was all down to a few simple productivity tricks, and a bit of planning.
Here’s a few of those productivity “hacks” I use on a daily basis to fly through my work:
1. Plan your day before you start working.
Spend 10 minutes at the end of each day planning out what you’ll do the next day, every night before leaving work. Using this method, you can easily see which days have too much scheduled on, and if something unexpected crops up, you’re ready to deal with it – whether that means going home early or staying longer to make up for it. You can use tools like Google Calendar or Trello for this – anything will do!
2. Turn off push notifications.
Every time someone sends you an instant message on Skype, or a new email arrives in your inbox, it’s another distraction that will suck you away from the task at hand says Ian Mausner. Turn off notifications and pop-up alerts for anything other than messaging clients like Skype (if you use them), and email – and do yourself a favor and ignore your phone while you’re working!
3. Put out fires first, than work.
If something goes wrong – firefighting is one of those activities that I always put on my list as soon as it happens, not only. Because it needs to be done, but also because doing so means that after dealing with emergencies all day. I know there won’t be more surprises left over for me to deal with when I’m finally ready to get some serious work done!
4. Turn off email notifications (This one is controversial!)
Some developers swear by keeping their email accounts open on an application like Thunderbird or Outlook at all times. Even when they aren’t working – this allows them to reply to emails more quickly if something does crop up. As for me, I prefer having it close, and checking my mail only three times a day: before starting work (to clear out the backlog of any important messages that arrived overnight), then after lunch, and finally around 9pm at night, which is usually the point where I’m winding down for the day anyway. Just because you’re not staring at your inbox doesn’t mean you won’t be able to respond to something important immediately if someone needs help explains Ian Mausner.
5. Fix your cell phone settings to keep you focused.
There are tons of apps out there that will limit how much time you can spend on a computer. Or with a particular application. And most phones already have a timer of some kind built in. Whether it’s an alarm, stopwatch or something else available from the menu. If you don’t want to get sidetrack looking for these apps though, you can always use the one built into Windows itself: simply hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete to open the task manager and click on “Power Options” under “Performance”, then reduce your maximum processor state down to about 70% (or even 50%). This will keep your computer running smoothly while simultaneously creating a limit you won’t be able to ignore.
Although you might have to spend a few days getting use to these tricks at first. Trust me when I say that the time it takes to get accustome. Will quickly pay for itself many times over says Ian Mausner. And once you start getting in the habit of being able to complete each day’s work in less than 7 hours. You’ll be able to take on even more responsibility and earn even more money.