Staying productive is hard. Especially as a developer.

It takes time to get in the zone, and once you’re there it’s easy to get pulled out.

You have…

— Meetings — Email — Features to build, bugs to fix

These are all things competing for your attention. Left unchecked you’re left with no time to get anything done.

The secret: Say “no” to all the things.

Here’s how we do it.

Meetings: Only on Thursday

Meetings kill productivity. Over time we’ve noticed there’s an invisible 45 minute padding around every meeting. Even innocent 15 minute Skype calls.

When you know you have a meeting in 45 minutes, it’s hard to start anything significant. And it’s equally hard to immediately jump in to a big problem right after getting off a call or out of a meeting. It takes time to ramp up to a state of flow.

Paul Graham has a great post introducing the concept of a “Maker’s schedule” vs. “Manager’s schedule”.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.

Managers view their schedule as small chunks of time and schedule meetings throughout the day. This is incompatible with how developers (makers) operate. Makers need long periods of uninterrupted time to get things done.

Here’s what we do to stay on the maker’s schedule as much as possible:

- Morning standups. Less than 5 min.

- Weekly sprint planning. 30 min over Monday lunch.

  • All other meetings on Thursdays, only.

We decided as a team that our #1 priority is to stay focused on our product and customers.

Email: Only after 5:20pm

Inbox zero is something I love. There’s nothing more satisfying than having no more todos for the day (and let’s face it, your inbox is a giant todo list).

The problem with inbox zero is it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it.

To solve this I use a combination of tools:

- Slack to chat with teammates

- Helpscout for customer support

- Inbox-puase to pause my inbox until specifically allowed times

This is what my inbox looks like until 5:20pm everyday!

I learned of this last tool from Alex Iskold in his excellent post on inbox zero.

Coding: Only do 1 thing per day

As a startup there are about 20 things you can do in a day, and all of them feel like productive work and could mean a huge step forward for the product and the company.

But if none of them get done, you have failed.

So instead of having a list of 20 todos every day that will most likely never get done, we have just 1. We call our single task for the day our P1 of the day. We also have a larger list of the Top 10 things that we pick from when choosing our P1.

This is what hyper-focus looks like. You have one goal for the day, that’s it. It’s extremely liberating.

Here’s what our working doc looks like for our P1s. It’s a simple Google Doc called The List.

We learned this trick from Jesse Hertzeberg and Alex Iskold. Incredibly great strategy.

If you’re interested in reading more. New posts will be posted on the @Localizejs blog. Here: