With that, I constantly think about time management, productivity, how to focus, how to strike work/life balance, etc. I noticed there are days that feel more right than the others: I can focus on the most important tasks, think clearly, juggle multiple deadlines, yet don't feel very stressed.
On the other hand, I've had days when everything seem urgent, my to-do list is too long, I have a hard time focusing on one tasks, keep getting interrupted. As a result, stress level is super high. So I decided to pay even closer attention to how I work and figure out what makes a productive day FOR ME.
Here's a couple things I uncover:
- I start the day knowing my MIT (most important task): So instead of jumping into performing a task, I spent a few minutes (no longer than 10) either reviewing what I had planned the day before, or just jotting down what I must accomplish that day, in terms of priority. And be honest with myself. Don't be too ambitious. Know the difference between urgent and important.
- Open as few applications and website tabs as possible: I do best focused work when I'm in a shutdown mode. Turn off emails (or switch to "work offline" mode) so the notifications don't interrupt my thoughts. Only open applications/website that you work on. Normally it's a PPT/word, plus one website if I need to research.
- Set a timer for a focused period (40-45 mins), stop when time is up, take a break. If timer is up and you're in the middle of a thought, finish it. But definitely stand up and take a short break. One of the mistakes I tend to make is to ignore the timer and carry on. 99% of the time, I don't produce any value after that 45 minutes. The brain needs a short break.
- Train yourself to ignore distractions. Be it a Skype message, a text message, a notifications on your phone. It's much harder to focus back your attention after that 1 minute distraction answering a question on Skype. Better yet, turn them all off!
- Practice. Hold myself accountable to these principles above. It's easy to slip back to old way of doing things. Like any habits, it takes mental muscle to stick to these habits before they stick.
I expect to uncover more rules by observing myself. One thing I yet to figure out is the right cadence to check emails. More on that later.