Strategies to Maximize Your Daily Productivity
On this Labor Day let’s discuss ways to maximize the output of your labor and increase your productivity.
Labor Day Reflection
It’s Labor Day, the day we celebrate the achievements of the American worker. The American worker is the backbone of the United States and arguably the backbone of the global economy. More broadly, workers globally produce goods that increase length of life, quality of life, and overall improve the happiness and well-being of people everywhere; global supply chains enable modern society to function. We take for granted where even our most basic goods come from. In short, they come from the labor of workers, the backbone of economies and the backbone of modern civilization.
On an individual level, I think a lot about how how to maximize my own productivity and make sure my output is as high of quality and quantity as possible. I have some personal practices that I like to stick to in my working life and my personal life for maximizing output and learning.
I am by no means a laborer so I will stick to talking about ways I’ve learned to increase my own productivity thus far in corporate environments, academic environments, and startup environments…
Strategies for Daily Work
Align Your Day
Don’t just jump right into your work without first aligning what your priorities and goals are for the day. Set your calendar for the day and stick to it. From a coding perspective, I like to set aside a few hours/project/day as code sprints to focus on writing code for each individual project for a big fraction of the day. This applies to any sort of work. Align yourself with what you want to get done, and then make sure you stick to it and get it done!
I find that if I don’t first align my day, I jump right into work that may not priority and 4 hours later realize I’ve wasted my morning solving something that wasn’t a top priority. Some of the best advice I received recently was this:
“Intellectually stimulating work is great and all, but intellectually stimulating work that brings value to the business is even better…”
This is a point that way too many people in corporate America seem to not understand. Minimize the amount of people at a meeting and ensure you’re not wasting your own time or the time of anyone else by attending or holding meetings that are not necessary. If you’re on the invite list for a meeting that isn’t relevant to your work, don’t attend. Sounds simple. But many people fail at this and spend the majority of their day in meetings that waste their time.
I read a great article recently that mentioned Elon Musk set a company mandate that if you’re not bringing value to a meeting, walk out. I think this is spectacular advice. If your company doesn’t have this culture it can be a bit daunting to pull an act like this. In this case, you need to be especially tactical about which meetings you choose to accept. Make sure you only attend the meetings in which you will receive significant value or you can bring significant value to someone else.
Allocate Blocks of Time
I mentioned this earlier, but code sprints are the lifeblood of how I get work done. Just sitting at my desk and passively working is not a recipe for me getting work done optimally. The way I really get work done is by blocking out a chunk of time for completing a task, spending a few minutes getting my mind right, and executing on this task without breaks or distraction.
For me, switching up my environment helps me maximize my productivity. To perform a code sprint I first block out the sprint on my calendar ahead of time. Next, I take my laptop to a remote area of the office I haven’t visited yet, maybe a coffee shop, or maybe even a library or park bench. Finally, I put my headphones in and lock in to completing my task for the allocated time. Once the task is over or time is up I stand up, stretch, grab a drink, and realign for the next part of my day.
If you’re in a code sprint or committed to completing some task, the worst thing that can happen is a distraction that comes along and disrupts your flow. It’s important that you find a way to eliminate all distractions during those periods of heightened work. Maybe having headphones in is enough to get you locked in. Maybe you’re like me and need to relocate away from people to maximize your productivity. Or maybe you thrive in a noisy environment. Whatever your preference, find it and use it.
Eliminate Clutter/Optimize Your Space
Again, this one is different for everyone. Some people work best in a spotless environment, others work better in a cluttered environment. Either way, align your space to your preference. For me, I like only those materials relevant to my current task to be in my immediate vicinity. Let’s say I’m working on a database task. The most materials I would want in my vicinity other than my computer might be a notepad, relevant text on databases, etc.
Don’t Take Shortcuts
This one I frequently fall prey to. Let’s say you’re a data guy working on analysis of some big data set with all sorts of parameters and observations. You could jump right into analysis. Or, you could set up data pipelines, automate your cleaning tasks, and build a system that optimizes all of your future analysis. Taking this extra time ahead will remove the need to manually perform these repetitive tasks every time you do a new analysis. DON’T TAKE SHORTCUTS!!! They aren’t shortcuts in the long run.
Find Mentors & Resources
I feel like this one has gotten talked about a lot lately. It can’t be overstated. Find mentors that are truly relevant to your interests and connect with them regularly. Set a time weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly to meet with them. Maximize the time you spend with these mentors. Don’t come to these meetings unprepared. Your mentors are sacrificing significant amounts of their time because for whatever reason they believe in you. Always be grateful for their time and come ready with the topics, questions, and concerns that will maximize their time and yours.
Also, find resources that will aid you in your job. No single person can know everything. Even experts in their field will tell you they have so much left to learn. An expert seeks to understand what areas they need to improve and employs keen self-awareness to identify when they need to reach out to others for assistance. Find people that can aid you in your tasks with their expertise and return the favor whenever they need your expertise in their daily tasks.
Strategies for Daily Learning
Make a Plan and Stick to It
Just like in your daily work life, align a plan to your goals and stick to it. Spending time outside of paid time to learn and grow takes great discipline. Many peoples’ eyes are bigger than their commitment. Make a repeatable plan and turn it into a habitual act.
Set Achievable Goals
In the same vein, set goals that are attainable. Don’t set goals you won’t be able to stick to. You’ll maybe do it once or twice, but inconsistency turns into goals that never get achieved. Start small and build from there. If you realistically can only commit to 30 minutes each night for practicing some new skill, then do 30 minutes/night. Stick to that 30 minutes and then build up to a higher commitment as you achieve your original goals.
Find Mentors & Resources
Don’t think that because this is a hustle outside of the daily grind that you don’t need mentors and resources. Find mentors and resources relevant to this learning, startup, or whatever endeavor you’re performing in your free time.
Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter.