Productivity and GTD
4 changes that have increased my productivity
"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." ~ Winston Churchill
It is so easy to get used to the daily routines and the usual way in which we do our things. Doing things “as always” allows us to feel comfortable because—right or wrong—we control our own little world.
The truth is that we have no real reason to make any changes when we live within our comfort zone, so we usually decide to change only when things are getting so bad that we have no choice. But this apparent calm and absence of risk is not real; it is just a perception. Not making changes may not lead you to any crisis, but mediocrity is assured when you do not care to improve.
From time to time I like to analyze what I do and how I do it, and I always notice some defects or things that can be improved. In recent months I have made some changes in the way I work that have considerably increased my productivity. I know they are very personal and can have different effects on each one, but in any case, I think that getting into the dynamics of trying different things is good. It makes you question your status quo and helps you grow and leave your comfort zone.
Getting up one hour earlier
“He that rises late must trot all day.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
In my college years, I heard in an class of Economy the story of a company that sold toothpaste and sought to increase sales by 10%. And they got it in a way as simple as silly: they manufactured the tubes containing toothpaste with a nozzle 10% wider.
Well, it turns out that getting up an hour earlier means I earn one productive hour every day, 7 hours a week. Obviously, keeping the same sleeping hours, you lose another hour at night. But in my case, I am changing one hour in which I am usually pretty tired and do not do anything interesting by another in which I am full of energy and eager to do things.
Why I did it. I workout in the morning (I have my best predisposition at noon), so my working time was somewhat unbalanced. I often went to the gym with a guilty feeling and that forced me to work in the evenings longer than recommended.
Using the Pomodoro technique with the long tasks
I have talked a couple of times about my approach to this technique here and here, so I am not extending. It is a technique that divides your working time in 25-minute blocks, whose biggest benefit is that, once adopted properly, allows you to say goodbye to interruptions. During that time you are not allowed to do anything other than the task at hand.
I use it with long lasting tasks, such as programming or writing, and in the first 5 months of use I have recorded an increase of 84 hours of productive work, a 14% higher than the previous 5 months.
Why I did it. Though I was reluctant, I decided to give it a try after seeing that it was highly recommended by some well-known programmers that I respect.
Getting an iPad Mini
Although it has many features, I will focus on the one I am getting more benefits in these early weeks. The possibility of having all my documents at hand anywhere thanks to this small tablet, allows me to make the most of the spare time that shows up when you least expect it.
I am a passionate reader. I read several books simultaneously and follow a good number of blogs and websites that publish stuff I am interested in. Technology, programming, design, productivity, business, economy, literature, fiction… Reading all these things takes a long time and I am not always able to put work in front of reading, so I have moved all my reading sources from my work area to the iPad: RSS feeds, PDFs, Kindle books, Evernote, Dropbox and Google Drive documents, articles saved in Readability, etc.
All I want to read is on the iPad (even my emails), and that makes both my working and resting times more productive.
Why I did it. Nothing to do with productivity. I bought it because I have to adapt the FacileThings web application for using with tablets and needed one for testing purposes. However, I am finding endless possibilities that facilitate the way I work.
Starting the nasty tasks at the end of the day.
Why I did it. There are tasks that can be an uphill climb to me (I guess that happens to everyone). I do not like them, they are very complicated or, for whatever reason, I have got some kind of aversion and put them off one day after another. The problem is that the longer I postpone them, the more I dislike them and the more anxious I feel for having them “pending” in my lists of actions to perform.
A few months ago I decided to find a trick that helps me remove this faulty behavior and this is what is working fine for me: When I realize that I am facing a task of this nature, I schedule it in the last 15 or 30 minutes of my working hours, only to start it up. Deferring it to the end of the day frees my mind so I can use my time much better. When the time comes, I need to make an effort, but it will be a relatively little effort, since I am going to devote only a few minutes to start the task; basically, to think about how I will handle it.
Once started, it turns out that it is not as complicated or as unpleasant as I thought. Fear and resistance have disappeared, so the next day I will be able to continue working on it until it is completed.
And you? What have you tried lately to improve your productivity?