A while back I had blogged about my Morning Routine. The routine helps set the pace for the day and in getting things done that matters to me most. During mid of December 2016, I started running once a week to get some exercise into my routine. I got interested in running and soon was running thrice a week along with some free body exercises another three days. Since this was new and exciting naturally my concentration was more on getting these done. I struggled to keep up with my blogging schedule, failed to get a video out in the month of February and lost track of everything else (FSharp, Reading, etc.). Though I continued to wake up early in the morning, I could not get much done. I badly wanted to fix things up and here is what I have come up with
- One-week sprints and setting weekly goals
- Break the Big Rocks (or MIT’s) into smaller tasks
- Improve Focus using Pomodoro Technique
- Daily Review and Weekly Review
One Week Sprints
The PSM course I attended in January made me realize the importance is sticking to a process. I decided to do weekly sprints for managing my personal work. I have a better estimate of how much I can get done with a shorter interval. I have blocked time on Sunday morning for my weekly planning and processing the ‘In-Basket.’ The In-Basket is where anything that comes up during the week goes. Todoist has an Inbox Project to which any uncategorized items go by default. I process the inbox and move them to various categories that I have setup in Todoist. Depending on the priority things make their way into the coming week or get set to ‘tentative’ dates and appropriate categories.
Big Rocks are tasks that matter to you the most. Identifying them is important so that you do not miss out on them. The idea is to fill your time available over the week with the Big Rocks. The rest will find its way through, just like if you were to fill a bottle with stones first and then fill it with water, sand as opposed to the other way round. Big Rocks are the same as the Most Important Tasks (MIT’s) that we saw earlier.
For me the biggest rock is family, and I have all of my evenings and weekends (rather any time they are awake, and I am home) blocked out for them. Over the past year, since I have written about my Morning Routine one of the MIT’s has changed. Blogging and FSharp still stay on, but I swapped in producing videos for Github contribution. Exercise is something I have set as a goal for 2017. To keep up with my exercise goal, I run three times a week and body weight exercises for another three days.
Every day I have roughly three hours of ‘me time’ from morning 4 am - 7 am. Waking up was difficult for a while but then I realized it’s all about waking up to an alarm. The ‘me time’ acts as the bottle into which I have to fit the Big Rocks into (if you watched the video above). I need to optimize the things in the best way possible to fit it all in there.
Pomodoro Sized Tasks
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named Pomodoro.
Many times in the past I have tried Pomodoro Technique on and off but was never able to stick with it. From my previous Morning Routine you can easily tell that I had a high-level plan on what my MIT’s are, but did not have any specific plans or goals on what to do about them. I also left room for flexibility to choose each day to pick up things randomly. Often it happened that I took more time to blog and got a bit of time for the other MIT’s. Though I have automated a lot of blogging activities, writing a post often took more time. And since I was not tracking this I was always happy that I achieved some of my MIT’s daily.
Once I started running things changed drastically. I struggled to keep up the with everything and concentrated on just blogging. It was because I started losing focus and started getting the feeling that it’s too hard to fit in everything. I let this happen for over a month but was not very happy with it. Mid of February I sat down and dumped all my available time onto a paper and broke them up into Pomodoro sized intervals. So now I know how much time I have in a week for getting stuff done. I then broke down my big rocks s into smaller measurable pieces. For, e.g., with blogging, I have 4 Pomodoro of work - Creating a draft (high level), Refining the post body, Writing the introduction and conclusion and finally Adding in images, proofreading, and publishing. Similarly, I broke down publishing videos (happens throughout a month) and learning F#.
Plans are nothing; Planning is everything
I blocked out the time for running and exercise first, then I filled in with blogging tasks, followed by videos and then with FSharp learning. I also have a reading goal for 2017 and found that I can best do that during my commute to work. Though this is not a full sized pomodoro interval, I have this tracked. Weekly Planning and Daily Review are two other activities that I have started following religiously. I do my daily planning right after my Daily Scrum at work so that I get to capture anything work related as well.
I was surprised how easily I could fit all of these into the time I have. Since the task breakdown above is guesstimates, I have some buffer time in my plan so that I can accommodate tasks that take more time or urgent tasks that come up during the week or the laziness that kicks in at times.
Increasing Focus and Removing Distractions
Social Media and emails were one of the biggest distractions for me. Even though I try to reduce the amount of time I spent for these, I often ended up taking a glance at those sites now and then. It often ended distracting and taking me completely off course from the task. I decided to stick to checking personal email only once a day and work emails twice a day. As for social networks (especially Facebook), I decided to keep that to one as well. I wanted to track this as well and see how well I was with it. I use Loop Habit Tracker app on my phone for tracking these habits.
For tracking pomodoro I use Tomighty, a simple Pomodoro tool. It just tracks the interval and does that thing well. The Pomodoro Technique lists down different techniques to manage interruptions and distractions. Managing interruptions is particularly useful when working out of an office and using pomodoro. During the short intervals, I usually take a walk around, fill water, stretch, etc.
I have only been following this for three weeks. But I find this effective and hope to stick on with it for a longer time. I no longer have to spend time deciding what to do as that’s already decided. The only thing is to do it. Having taken the reasoning part of what to do out, I find doing things is easy and I procrastinate less. The important thing is sticking with the process and believing in it. I am sure this is going to pass as well, but for now I happy and it works for me. How do you keep yourself productive? Sound off in the comments