In this article we're going to discuss techniques of improving the productivity for software developers(might work for other areas as well). We'll focus on personal throughput - and the reasons why we struggle to complete more work.
If we had everything organised, and had power to do all the things ( assuming an action is done effectively ) - we'd be super productive , won't we ?
I'll mention a few things that I've found personally helpful from the great book here . It's up to you to find a reference in the book, and supportive links to relevant research. The book is the biggest compilation that I've seen of already existing material on productivity, for example Getting Things Done by David Allen.
Why do we procrastinate
Tim Urban has given a TED talk in 2016 about what happens inside a mind of a procrastinator.
The Internet is not making it any better with trading our attention as a currency on the market.
Rabbit out of the hat right away
The most important thing is to accept that there is no easy way out. There is no magic bullet, advice or aphorism that will turn you into an all-powerful person. Art of a better performance should be crafted by everyone individually, applying all the things we know about our bodies and minds.
One of the a few thoughts to start:
Pushing yourself and willpower have a limit, just like a muscle.
How our memory works
Figuratively speaking, our memory is two notebooks: everything is constantly erased from one, and on the other it is written very poorly, and it is written illegibly, which is why we very often read something completely different from what we wrote down.
It's only natural to forget things, and unless we have it written somewhere - it's very ease to blame our "faulty" memory.
Willpower is not endless
Somehow we came to be brainwashed about invulnerability of our willpower, however:
That thing inside of us that we use to "force ourselves" works on the same principle as the muscles. It can be depleted, then you can no longer do anything with yourself and succumb to the first impulse to quit. The bad news is that this "self push" uses the same resource of thought fuel. The good news is she's anti-fragile. Start training it like a muscle - stress it and then let it recover. Physical activity (such as running or plank pose) is ideal. After a little practice, you will surely notice that both "make yourself run a little longer" and "be patient a little longer before diving into the social network" require the same skill.
If you're the anxious-mind type of a person, this test was made for you. Instead of bluntly pushing ourselves to focus on the tasks, it's good to understand first where do we lean - being more calm or fidgety with our thoughts.
“What is your subjective minute? To understand this, you need to do the following: sit quietly, relax, start a stopwatch, close your eyes and let your thoughts wander as they please. As soon as, according to your feelings, a minute has passed, look at the stopwatch: it will show how many real astronomical seconds are in your subjective minute. This test is a great indicator of your current level of anxiety. ”
Nothing in life is as important as it seems in the moment when you think about it.
Observe your thoughts
In itself, observing the course of one's own thoughts is very useful for training the mind, and this is one of the basic exercises in Buddhist practice:
Pick a point on a wall or piece of paper and try to concentrate on it. Our attention will jump from side to side, but we need exactly this, do not resist it, but rather encourage it. Each time you notice that you are distracted from this point, write down what distracted you and return back to the point. "So you have a list of things that still matter to you that need to be either cleaned up or decided."
Freeing your mind technique
"Evening nail puller" - find a quiet secluded corner. Take a comfortable position. Take three deep breaths. Now, in reverse chronological order, remember your entire day. As detailed as you can. In a strange way, while scrolling through your head in your head and in reverse chronological order, your memory can give you those things that for one reason or another you did not have time to write down. Write them down now. Because these nails have a very bad tendency to crawl into your consciousness at the most inopportune moment.
Dopamine addiction and social networks
Smartphones can be our worst enemy as we try to be more productive. The surge of dopamine that they inspire doesn't encourage focus and "deep work". Being mindful about it, and developing your tricks in using this tech is important.
In especially neglected cases, we become unbearably bored even when we are in bed, but have not yet had time to fall asleep. At this point, the smartphone is our worst enemy.
A common feature of many addictions is our desire to somehow justify them.
“Going down into the cave, do not forget about the guiding thread. Time flies by on social media, and many of us probably regret the sheer number of hours spent browsing the news feed. Social network celibacy in this case is not an option, strict prohibitions only worsen the situation. So the next time you go to see what's new with your friends, set yourself a timer for ten or fifteen minutes. When the timer goes off, decide if you're ready to continue watching social media or if you've had enough. In this case, the timer acts as a string that will help you get back before a short circuit through the monkey occurs.”
Declutter your mind
One the ways to ease mind if you're thinking about 100 things is to write them down in a reliable system(like Todo list for example), which backs up to the cloud. This way you can be sure that all your tasks/ideas/thoughts are stored somewhere and won't disappear, so you can relax.
Hint: be as detailed as possibly can, imagine that in 2 weeks you'll have no context about this whatsoever. Make it easier for a future self.
Let's take a look over a few examples from your personal planner:
Talk to a friend about the job interview
Call Michelle about the Uber vacancy she mentioned
Pay the bill
Retrieve the recent water bill, and forward the funds to the account mentioned on the other side of the letter
Mind clarity before a vacation
Think about every time you went on a vacation. If you prepared for it responsibly, you likely went through all the unfinished business, decided the next step on it - wrote it down somewhere and moved on. Or informed someone to cover for you while you're away.
How great did it feel , to have everything important sorted out. What's stopping you to do this every week?
Review and adjust the system
“Many of those who tried to organise their lives and did not succeed in this, most likely failed precisely in the absence of regular reviews of the system. It is clear that if you treat your task list as a letter to Santa Claus( compose it once ... and never look into it again ), then it (the list) will not help you. ”
Life can be full of ambiguity, and it's okay
“Unfortunately, in a state of uncertainty, many feel very uncomfortable, so they are afraid to start doing things until everything becomes clear to the end. However, in most cases this will not happen until at least the first step has been taken, or even until most of the path has been covered. Because of this, people with a certain temperament tend to fall into "analysis paralysis." In psychology, there is the concept of "tolerance to uncertainty", showing how comfortable a person feels in a situation where not everything is clear, and how ready he is to act in such conditions. It was experimentally shown that among the subjects with a high level of tolerance for uncertainty, highly educated and highly effective people predominated, who were also distinguished by a high level of interpersonal emotional intelligence and creative abilities. Richard Wiseman in his book argues that people who are more tolerant of uncertainty are more likely than others to notice favourable opportunities and look at the world from different points of view. Unpredictability and uncertainty are a natural feature of the world around us. There are people who are able to accept this and live and work comfortably in a situation where much is not clear, and there are people who strive to create “at least the illusion of certainty". The first life is much easier.”
Life outside of work
“Effective work skills are best reinforced when we understand why we do things effectively. Namely, in order to be able to do what we personally want and personally we like to do. If you don’t have something that you sincerely want to do for yourself (if someone else will also benefit from it, that’s fine, but first of all, you personally should like the thing), your only goal is to work more and be more productive. - work even harder and more productively. The subconscious will not forgive you for this.”
Consistency above all else
“I repeat, the worst thing that can happen when you start learning Jedi techniques is to start rewarding yourself for good work… extra work. “I did a good job! I did in half a day what I used to spend the whole working day on! Hooray! Let me now do a little more to get as much as I would not have done in a day before. The abundance of ticks in the list of tasks at first can lead you into a frenzy of delight, but this will quickly pass. For a long-term and sustainable effect, you must experience how the techniques ... benefit and help you be happy! And for this it is worth taking care of personal matters, even at the workplace (if you see no other way out, of course).”
Feel free to check out Maxim Dorofeev's video on Youtube as well: