Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness


Learning from A Productivity Challenge Week 2

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I am excited to be speaking at the inaugural WordCamp DC this summer. I will be talking about my favorite tools for productivity, as well as tips and tricks for being more productive. As I prepare for this presentation, I am undertaking a 30 day Productivity Challenge. During this time, I am researching different ideas about productivity, and trying different methods to pay attention to, measure and track my behavior and productivity. This is the second in a series of blog posts about this Challenge.

It’s Saturday afternoon. I was supposed to write this post this morning.

What happened?

I got wrapped up in coding a website. I was just so excited to get started – I couldn’t wait! I went off schedule – it IS Saturday after all, so I should be doing something fun – for me, this is fun! I got a lot done, but not what I planned. I didn’t stick to my plan, and now I am a bit behind on getting this task done.

This week was short, since I had Monday “off.” I had big plans and feel like I accomplished a lot!

If I am critical of myself, I would say that I had a couple of times when I ignored the fact that I was going down a rabbit hole, or unnecessarily trying to “finish” a project, sacrificing other projects or family relationships. I know this about myself: I have a hard time stopping anything before a job is “finished.” As a matter of fact, at this moment, I should be preparing dinner, and know I will be rushing to do so unless I stop this and finish it later. Ok, I will spend 5 more minutes on this post!

inbox zero
In addition to making significant progress on two new websites, I was able to clear out and organize some files on my computer and in my email, and to get to inbox ZERO on all 3 of my Gmail accounts. Not only that, but I unsubscribed from lots of emails and set up filters to move emails that I rarely ready (sometimes scan, often just delete) so these emails will either skip my inbox and be deleted or skip my inbox and move to folders for Blogs I Want to Read and Blogs I Scan. I am going to schedule time to look at these folders once or twice a week and clean them out. This process took a few hours to complete, but I think it will save me time going forward.

I also practiced my WordCamp presentation and worked on my slides and knocked several small things off my list.

I tried the Pomodoro Technique this week a few times. I find that 25 minutes is not long enough for a work period – I would rather work 55 minutes and have a 5 minute break. But I tried it. During the 5 minutes I did some push ups and sit ups, to avoid using that 5 minutes to snack!

I now have many lists and have put most of them on paper as well as in my ToDoIst App. I am going to schedule time to check my long term lists every week, and am creating manageable daily schedules which I hope will become more realistic as a I start to get a better grasp on how long things really take. I have been tracking my time and will be reviewing the results to not only help with planning, but also with creating proposals for new website projects.

In addition to using Toggl to track my time, I am reviewing RescueTime, which tracks my actual time use (not what I report). This week Rescue Time shows:

rescue time report

I have had Rescue Time installed for a long time but have never really used it. What a great resource! You can set goals and get detailed breakdowns of what you are actively doing on your computer at any time. I set a goal of spending less than 2 hours a day on Communication and Scheduling for next week. Let’s see how that goes!

Week Two

Productivity Score: 8/10

Actions Implemented/Continued:

  • Planned one-two hour time blocks for each day at the beginning of the week (making adjustments as needed)
  • Paused inbox (most days) and checked email only 3 times per day
  • Studied more books about productivity tactics
  • Meditated every day for 5 minutes
  • Tried using Pomodoro Technique.
  • Ended the week by spending time creating more filters in each gmail account and getting to complete inbox zero
  • More fully utilized ToDoIst to list personal and work tasks, big and small
  • Put more specific tasks in Teamwork for larger projects, including tasks for other team members to keep things from falling through the cracks
  • Better defined specific ‘tasks within a task’ to help prevent the inability to “complete” a task that is too big for one day.

Improvements for Week 3:

  • Try AGAIN to be more disciplined about stopping a task even when not “finished.”
  • Try AGAIN to use the Pomodoro timer more often
  • Continue meditation practice and attention to mindfulness to increase focus
  • Work on changing and developing better habits
  • Spend less than 2 hours per day on email and scheduling
  • Start learning to read music and play the guitar

Key Lessons:

  • I feel in control and energized when I am organized and have a schedule ahead of me.
  • The Pomodoro Technique, with only 25 minutes per session, does not feel long enough to get immersed in a project.
  • Spending time setting up systems to automate tasks is worth the time investment.
  • I have a hard time stopping! I love building websites, solving problems and getting things done.
  • Pausing my inboxes and ganging up maintenance and email tasks is helpful
  • Being off Facebook is helpful (and easier the second week)
  • There are LOTS of techniques for productivity. I need to do what works for me

I’ll report back next weekend on my progress. Thanks for following me on my journey to become more productive!

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