Regardless of the size of your office setting, it is sometimes difficult to remain focused at work. One may typically find other co-workers to blame, but we each have the ability to greatly reduce the disturbance factor by tweaking our own actions. Entrepreneur Dave Cheong came up with a fantastic list of tips and tricks that are sure help you make the most of your day and get stuff done!
- Write out a daily task list and plan your day. There’s nothing like a task list sitting next to you to keep you focused. When you have a list of the things you need to accomplish in a day, having that close to you constantly reminding you of what needs to be done is a great way of keeping on track.
- Allocate time slots colleagues can interrupt you. In a busy work place, people are moving and talking all the time. If you play a role in a team where others need to interact with you, try allocating a time slot they can interrupt you. Instead of having people stop by your desk every 10 mins and asking you questions, let them know of a time in the day, say between 2-4pm you can be interrupted. At all other times, you can really get some work done.
- Apply time boxing. Instead of working at something till it is done, try working on it for a limited period, say 30 mins. By that time, the task is either completed or you allocate another time slot, perhaps in another day, to pick it up again. This way, you keep your work fresh and engaging throughout the entire working day.
- Setup filters in your email. If you spend a lot of your time communicating and planning in front of your computer, chances are you deal with emails on a frequent basis. Setting up filters in your email client can be a great way of sorting out what’s important and urgent from personal stuff which can wait. Instead of dealing with a single Inbox with hundreds of unread email, you only need to deal with smaller folders categorised by project, priority and context.
- Do not check personal email in the morning. Checking personal emails can be very distracting even with filters setup. This is especially true when your friends send you links to interesting articles, jokes or videos on YouTube. If you’re not careful, you can get side tracked for hours. Instead of checking your personal email as soon as you get in, try starting work straight away. This will build up some momentum as you ease into your work day. You should check your personal email only after you have a few tasks completed or underway. Also, if you don’t want to perpetuate a particular distracting email thread, just don’t reply to it until after work.
- Set your IM status. If you use Instant Messenger, when you don’t want to be disturbed, make use of the status and set yourself as being away or busy. Your friends and colleagues will honour that. They can either send you an email or look you up later when you aren’t as busy.
- Listen to the right types of music. Music is a great way of settling into the working routine. In addition, having music can drown out office noises like printers and background chattering. Be careful though, depending on personal preference, some types of music are not particularly conducive to productive work. For me, I can’t work when listening to songs with lots of lyrics because the words interrupt my thinking process.
- Use the headphones but leave the music off. Some people prefer to have absolute silence when working. I think that also depends on what kind of work you are doing. If you’re doing some serious planning or something computational, having music blasting in your ears may not be the best thing for keeping focused. Try using headphones or ear plugs to block out the background noise but leave the music off.
- Fill up a water bottle. Keeping yourself hydrated is pretty important for all sorts of health reasons. Instead of going to the water cooler with your glass every hour, try filling up a water bottle at the start of the day. This does a couple of things – firstly, it limits the starts/stops associated every time you get up for water and secondly, it avoids being sucked into lengthy discussions around the water cooler.
- Find the best time to do repetitive and boring tasks. No matter how much you try to avoid it, you’re going to have to face doing things which are either repetitive or boring. For these tasks, I find it is best to choose a time in the day to work on them. For example, I’m more alert at the start of the day, so it’s better to work on things which require brain power early. Working on boring tasks that can be done via auto-pilot are better left towards the end of the day when I’m usually tired.
- Bring your lunch and have it at your desk. I’m not suggesting you do this every day, but if you really have to focus and are trying to meet a deadline, having your lunch at your desk really helps. The normal one hour lunch break can really interrupt any momentum you might have built up during the morning. I find when I’m eating lunch at my desk, my lunch breaks are shorter and I can get through a few emails while I’m eating. After I’m done, I’m straight back working on the next task.
- Don’t make long personal calls. Most of us have a good separation between our working and personal lives (or a least try to). I think we can all agree we should avoid having work intrude on our personal time as much as possible. The reverse of this also applies. Try limiting the time you spend doing personal things during work as they can be distracting and draining on your motivation. For example, you do not really want to be thinking about your weekend away with your spouse when you really need to get things done.
- Clean up your desk. Some of you may have desks which can only be described as ordered chaos. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as you can find what you need without too much digging around. However, if you can’t, I suggest cleaning up your desk. That doesn’t mean having an empty desk, it just means having neat stacks of paper, all filed in the correct location. It also helps tremendously having all the things you need easily within arms reach. For example, if you need a place to write, having your pen and notepad close by and easily accessible is incredibly useful.
- Get a good chair. If you sit for long hours at your desk and I’m sure some of you do, you might find it helpful to get a good chair. I find it’s pretty hard to stay focused when my neck and back are sore because I have a bad setup at my desk. A good chair can eliminate this, allowing you to work for long stretches without breaks and physical distractions.
- Use shortcuts on your computer. If you find you do the same thing with your computer more than once throughout the day, you might find it helpful to look for ways in which you can do them without too much manual repetition. For example, if there’s a project folder you access all the time, try adding a shortcut to your Explorer or Finder so you can get access to it with a single click, instead of expanding folder after folder in the tree panel.
- Close programs you’re not using. Instead of Alt-Tabbing constantly and fighting the computer to locate the program you need, try only having the applications you need open. Close everything else. For example, if you have already located a file and no longer need a particular Explorer or Finder instance open, close it. There’s no reason to leave it around at all.
- Limit time on Digg, Delicious, news sites and blogs. Digg, Delicious, news and blogs are great from an interest perspective, but they can really take you away from the work you should be working on. Try to limit going to these sites during the working day. If you really have to, try doing it during your lunch time. No, you don’t need to have your finger on the pulse every single minute of the day.
What else would you add to the list? Is there anything here you strongly agree, or disagree with? Sound off and let us know!
Have you ever been caught red-handed, using the Internet for personal reasons at work? Well you’re not the only one (you sneaky sneaky thing!) After breezing through this interesting infographic from CareerBuilder- get back to work!
Does your workplace block the access of certain websites? Are you free to post whatever you wish about your company via social media? Let us know in the comments below!
Hi everyone, Ilan here.
I just wanted to take a minute to talk about the iPhone app. A couple of people complained about the fact that our app is getting old, and doesn’t alway sync. You’re right on both fronts.
Getting old : why is it getting old? The reality is that we only have one (brilliant) iOS and Mac developer (for now), and he’s been working on the (successful) Mac app ever since the iPhone app has been released. The good news is that he started again baking the brand new, shiny and fast iPhone app V2 for a couple of months already, and it’s simply going be out of this world. Sneak peek :
I can’t give out any release date (even though it’s set), for PR purposes. More about this soon.
Sync: When such a technologically complex app gets older, you find out about ‘bugs’ over time, and sync is one of them. What happens is that when a Producteev account is getting bigger and bigger, the iPhone app is having a hard time to sync it. This issue is obviously fixed in the new version, since we built a brand new sync engine. Again, having one developer on this platform is not always easy to manage, but that’ll change.
Overall, a lot of things will change in the next couple of weeks, since we’re obviously working on something big that involves A LOT of improvements, more platforms supported, and a couple of surprises.
We’ll open private betas seats soon, on a one-to-one basis.
Thanks all for your support in the meantime!
Ilan, co-founder and CEO
The Case for Project Management
Last Updated on Saturday, 15 October 2011 01:21 Written by Mike Cottmeyer Saturday, 15 October 2011 01:21
How far ahead should we plan? I depends on what you are building, when you need to have it done… and if you aren’t going to get done… how soon do you need to know about it. If your goal is to build the highest value features possible, deliver continuously to market, get real time feedback… you might be able to get away with planning a sprint or two out… maybe less. If your goal is to deliver a specific set of predefined features, all of which need to be done by the end of the quarter, you may want to have all three months laid out. It’s not that we wouldn’t inspect and adapt and deal with reality, it’s just that we need to know if our velocity isn’t trending such that everything is going to get done. If we don’t know how we are doing against done, we don’t know what tradeoffs we need to make along the way.
I’ve worked with several clients recently that were trying to operate as if the software they were building was emergent. It wasn’t. They were being asked to deliver a specific outcome, with a pre-defined set of time and cost constraints. For these guys, it was absolutely silly to only plan their backlog two weeks at a pop. They had no idea how they were doing against the expectations of the business. They had no idea if they were on track or not or how they should approach the business to negotiate scope trade-offs. They had no means to determine if their approach was trending toward and acceptable outcome. The reality was that they were going to work really hard, probably deliver a great working product, and still have their stakeholders upset with them.
Having a plan doesn’t mean that we have to have a death march. Having a plan means that we have a baseline to measure against. Some way to determine if we are making the progress necessary to achieve our goals. Remember that line in the Agile Manifesto? We value responding to change over following a plan? While we value the items on the right, we value the items on the left more? The plan isn’t the problem… it’s failure to respond to change… to deal with reality that is the problem. If I have a fixed time, fixed cost, fixed scope project… I damn well better be delivering incrementally using an agile approach… it’s the only way of knowing if I’ve got a shot in hell of being successful. It’s the only way we can confidently let our stakeholders know if we are on track or not.
Not every team needs a project manager… but I think many could benefit from some really good project management. I’ve been an agile project management guy from the beginning, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that we need to be teaching teams, not just how to self-organize, but how to effectively manage delivery… product or project delivery, I don’t care which. Self organized teams need to have everything necessary to deliver an increment of value… it’s my opinion that everything necessary to deliver an increment of working product includes someone that knows how to manage risk, validate assumptions, communicate with stakeholders, assess progress against the goal, and know when things are off track. That can be the PO, the ScrumMaster, or someone else on the team… again, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that project management is happening… no matter who does it.
"Make each day count twice" - Bill Rancic, winner of the 1st season of The Apprentice and author of You’re Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life.
In startup life there’s this saying that startup years are twice as long as regular years. The explanation, in most cases, has to do with longer hours. Although the thrill of being in a startup means learning new things at an unimaginable rate, the price means missing out on the comfort of a traditional 9-5!
In You’re Hired, Bill Rancic gives entrepreneurial advice and covers an interesting concept with creating “psychological edge” from essentially working two shifts in one day.
- The first shift last from 7am-noon.
- The second shift is noon-7pm.
*Lunch is ordered in and probably spent multi-tasking.
We’ve all heard about “the early bird catching the worm.” But what about Rancic’s “making each day count twice?” It might be what’s holding you back from that million-dollar breakthrough! ;) As you can see from the following photo of Donald Trump, it’s the kind of commitment required for entrepreneurs who mean business.
What do you think, worth a shot?
Photo credit: Ari Moore
If at least one is of use, we can go home happy!
"You have the power to make New York City the global capital of innovation and entrepreneurship" - Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Tech Meetup (NYTM).
Producteev is way better than RTM!
Pretty much ;) One year ago, that’s what they said!
Like his t-shirt gives away, Daniel Buchner is a developer with heart! He currently works at Mozilla as a product manager, is married, has a pet dog, and goes mountain biking for fun.
Daniel manages his entire workflow on Producteev, which at the moment includes the supervision of three engineers. He also takes advantage of our multiple workspaces feature and is hacking away on a fancy side project. Shhh, it’s in stealth mode!
As a devoted product manager, he admits to occasionally being behind on deadlines. His advice for staying on track, in spite of minor setbacks?
When a task is late, don’t just ignore it. Change the deadline, and write the reason(s) why in the notes.
Good call, Dan! He adds:
Producteev really has the right set of features for developers! It’s way better than RTM, in my opinion. Especially how it’s organized. The UI, sidebar, filter….are all great details! There’s a decent set of standard features.
Daniel, like many of you, is a Google and Android fanboy. Here at HQ, we’re working on building even better Google integrations, as well as finishing that native Android app! The latter of which includes deadline modification notations. :)
Stay tuned for another exciting product manager story, with our very own Stephane!