Don’t work more, get more work done

Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez

As a developer, I constantly ask myself this question: how many hours should I be working every day?

By keeping track of the amount of time I invest on each task, I realized I tend to work in one of three “modes”:

  1. Regular mode: this is how I spend most of my time. On regular mode, I produce 1 unit of work per hour.
  2. Burn out mode: this is how I work when I’m tired. On burn out mode, I produce 0.5 units of work per hour.
  3. Zen mode: this is how I work when I’m “in the zone”. On zen m0de, I produce 2 units of work per hour.

From that observation, it’s pretty clear that my best option is to work as many hours as possible in zen mode (and no time at all on burn out mode). For example:

I could spend 7 hours in regular mode and 2 hours on burn out mode, and get 8 units of work done. 
Or, I could spend 3 hours in regular mode and 3 hours in zen mode, and get 9 units of work done.

So, I’ve been trying to get as much zen-hours as possible, and this has been my strategy:

  • Sleep. Eat Healthy. Work out.
    I can’t get into zen mode unless I’m rested and full of energy, and I’ve found out those 3 activities are excellent ways to get the energy I need.
  • Stop working when I realize I’m not being productive.
    If I’m working and I find myself hanging out at Facebook or YouTube instead of coding, I’ll take a break and do something more valuable with my time (like any of the other points on this list).
  • Take time to improve.
    Any time I invest on improving my skills helps me stay in zen-mode longer, since I avoid having to stop mid-task to research how to get things done.
  • Figure out my schedule.
    I’ve found out I’m most productive between 8am and 11am, so I try to get the most important work done in that period. Instead, I do my research & learning on evenings.

How do you balance your day? Do you have any technique for getting into Zen mode?