Who produces value becomes more successful. Hence productivity needs to be hacked.

Focus is becoming more of a challenge in the social media world where constant interruptions have become acceptable.

This is a follow-up post for my 2010 post: increase productivity by 3+ times.

I am using (and learning as we speak) the following habits to become more effective and efficient:

Batch / manage interruptions

Obvious but this one takes constant discipline, and after periods of having a better handle I tend to fall back. Programmers are makers and we need to adhere to a maker’s schedule. Read chapter 7 of 4HWW how to manage time. Deep work (Cal Newport) is high on my reading list and deals with this:

One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you’ll achieve extraordinary results.

The one thing is a great book to (re)gain focus.

Set goals and plan

No goals, nothing to work towards. Equally important: plan the day ahead, ideally the night before, at latest early in the morning. No plan and you easily get into reactive mode, working on stuff that does not matter. And it all adds up over time like compound interest. To better understand “important vs urgent” see Covey’s time management grid in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Measure progress

What gets measured gets managed said Peter Drucker. I have been on agile projects and using sprints with proper planning and review yield more results than not doing it. I am going to use 2 week sprints for my personal goals too. Another area where I made significant progress is health and fitness, all thanks to measuring progress and adjusting along the way.

Liability partner

Closely related to the tracking is a liability partner. If you have shared goals or you tell a friend or even your audience (blog) you have to do it. This is a tremendous incentive to get you moving and a fun way to share your progress with somebody.

Set deadlines for tasks

Again the 4HWW is golden here. It taught me Parkinson’s law: a task blows up in size according to the time you give it. I find setting deadlines (assigning max times to tasks) and using the pomodoro technique in execution a very powerful partnership. The extreme focus does miracles in the amount of work you get done when time is compressed. Of course it takes practice and you will often have it wrong, but it’s better to have an imperfect system than no system at all.

Like fear of failure, perfectionism is another enemy. Almost always good is good enough, spend more time and you perfect the unnecessary. For example I could easily have spend two hours writing this post, but setting two pomodori of a max. of 50 min made me do this task twice as fast!

Bonus: to develop habits it’s also a must to study habit forming. Here is a great book I recently read that might be helpful for you.

What about you?

I would love to hear if you use these and/or other habits to become more productive. Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Bob Belderbos

Software Developer, Pythonista, Data Geek, Student of Life. About me