Posts Tagged productivity
My last post covered how I’ve been Organizing my Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly activities. In this post I’ll go over how I organize and track my day.
I keep a note titled Daily Execution in Evernote. Every morning, I review my Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly note to check what’s in the calendar for the day ahead of me. I look for things that have to happen at a set time (such as a meeting) as well as things that have to happen on this day, but not at a specific time.
This is a template of what my Daily Execution note looks like:
I try not to pollute this note with too much information. If I have a meeting, I create a note for that meeting, put all the details I need in there, and then just add a link to it on my Daily Execution note. If the meeting is a place I have to drive to, I’ll add the address to the note, so I can easily tap on it on my phone and pull up directions. If it’s a phone call, I put the phone number on the note, so I can simply tap on it on my phone.
This note is my single source of truth for my day. It needs to give me a clear idea as to what I need to do on this day, and it needs links to other notes with further information about those things.
I check this note several times all day long.
Many times I’m checking it on my phone, so I try to make it easy to look up information I need.
As the days go by, I jot down quick notes on things I just did. I use vJournal on my Mac or iPhone for that:
vJournal keeps a note in Evernote with timestamps for everything logged that day:
The iOS version of vJournal also adds location information to the note. I like that because sometimes I’m driving by some place and I see something I want to check out later (for instance, a stakepark I didn’t know of). Logging that info to vJournal allows me to easily find out when I saw the place and where it was so I can go back there later.
At the end of the day, I review my Daily Execution note, as well as the note created by vJournal. I verify what I had to do that got done and what didn’t get done, and create new tasks, calendar entries, etc, accordingly.
Once I’m done reviewing that information, a copy all of the content in my Daily Execution note, paste it at the bottom of my note created by vJournal, tag it with “daily log”, rename the note to follow the format YYYY-MM-DD (which allows me to quickly find my log for a specific day), and move the note into a Archive notebook.
For the records, I started using the approach of having a single Daily Execution note about two years ago. The approach of keeping a daily log I’ve started all the way back in 2010 (as of today, I have 2349 notes tagged “daily log”)!!
As far as keeping a daily log like that, I can’t tell you how helpful it has been. I’m often going back to it to help recompose my memory on things I’ve done, people I’ve met, places I’ve been, ideas I’ve had, etc.
I’ve been changing how I do these things slightly over the years, trying new things out, but the basic idea has been sticking around and it works well for me.
A few years ago I found this great YouTube video:
Evernote Tips: How to use Evernote to achieve your goals
I really like the approach presented there and thought I could adapt it to the way I was already organizing things. One part of the approach is to have a note titled “Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly”. See below what that note looks like:
I have a shortcut to that note, as I’m constantly going back to it, often multiple times every day. Even though I have other calendars I need to use (Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, etc), I consider my note in Evernote as my single source of truth: everything that’s really important for me has to be in that note, as it makes very easy for me to see the immediate stuff as well as things that are expected to happen in the future.
Let’s see how that note is organized.
Things that happen every week
In that section I want to see things that happen every week on a specific day. For instance, I need to fill out timesheet on Friday, and I’d like to post to this blog every Tuesday.
Here I want to see the most important things in the current month. I try not to put to much info in the calendar itself. Instead, I create a separate note for each entry containing all the info I need about it, and then I add a link to that note to the calendar.
Months in the current year
Here I want to see all months in the current year, and things that are expected in those months. Notice that I’ll only put here things for which I know the month, but do not know the actual date (either because it could be any day within that month, or because I don’t really have the actual day yet). When I do have the date, then I move it to another specific place (more on it later).
Things in specific periods
Here’s where I put things I may want to remember in specific periods. For instance, I like doing a monthly review in the first couple of days in the following month. Or, I like remembering that December is a short, unusual month because of the holidays, and I use that information when I’m about to do planning for that month.
Entire current year, day by day
As soon as I know exactly the date for something expected to happen, I put it in this section. It makes very easy for me to see at a glance everything going on the entire year. When I’m planning for a month that’s about to start, I look here to see how the calendar needs to be populated. I also put here birthdays that I absolutely cannot forget.
Five years in the future
This is where I keep things expected for the next five years in the future. If I know the exact date, I’ll add that information, too. It can also be something like “passport expires on Month/Day. Look into getting new one 6 months earlier.”. If I don’t have a date, I’ll at least add a note so I’ll always have a reminder of something important that needs attention.
If there’s something I know should happen beyond five years in the future (for instance, an important document that’ll expire and need renewing), then I list it under a Beyond section at the bottom of that note, including the year and note.
Review it often
As I mentioned earlier, I review this note at least once a day. Since I put everything really important in this note and review it often, I get peace of mind knowing I won’t forget these things.
I’ve been playing Lumosity’s brain games daily for several months now. I’ve read about people swearing by it, so I decided to try it myself.
For many months, my morning routine included meditation, and then the brain games. I thought that’d be when my brain would perform at its best: early in the morning, before reading emails or anything like that, and right after meditating. Well, I was wrong.
There was one week where I had time to meditate in the morning, but didn’t have time for the brain games, so I was doing them later in the day, around 9pm or so. I thought my scores that week would drop noticibly, given I was very busy working all day and would be tired in the evening. That’s not what happened: all my scores went up that week, despite the fact that I was feeling very tired!
I then decided to change my brain games time to my evenings, and my scores have been consistently better than when I was doing it early in the morning.
I’ve been experimenting with finding the best time of the day for me to perform certain tasks. I’ve always had this feeling that my brain works much better from mid afternoon into the evening, so it seems these brain games are confirming that.
I feel like meditation is finally paying off for me!
I remember I was a kid (maybe 10 years old or so) when I first tried any sort of meditation. No idea what motivated me to do so at the time. Maybe it’s because I was into watching martial arts movies and saw the characters meditating?
I used to close the doors and windows to keep my bedroom dark, put on Vangelis’ Alpha song (my brother had a small LP that had that song), sat on the floor, and went like “ommmmmmmm” for a while. Go figure.
A little over year ago I heard of Headspace’s app for guided meditation and decided to give it a go. I tried their free 10-day program, enjoyed it, and ended up getting the yearly subscription.
As of today, I have had 243 medication sessions, totalling 44 hours, averaging 11 minutes per session. I first started doing 10-minute daily sessions, and only about two months ago I’ve increased it to 15-minute sessions.
It’s definitely not easy sitting through those sessions trying not to get distracted by everything going on in my head. For a long time I kept asking myself whether that thing was actually working, since I couldn’t tell difference. But I decided to insist on it.
Now I think it’s finally paying off!
I’ve been noticing how smoothly I’m handling some stressful situations, such as cases where in the past I’d lose my temper and end up regretting how I handled it.
I’ve also been noticing that I’m detecting my distractions a lot quicker and more frequently and bringing my mind back to whatever it is that I need to be focused on.
Many times those distractions come in the shape of thoughts that bring me down, and most of the times those are things either sitting in the past (which I cannot change) or future (which I may or may not be able to change). I’m noticing I’m doing a lot better at recognizing those thoughts and letting them go as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Overall, I’m feeling happier and more focused, which are things I had been really in need of, and I believe meditation is one of the things helping me with that.
Due to my consistency following my daily sessions, Headspace has been giving me vouchers that I can give out to people who would like to try their app for one month for free. Let me know if you’d like to get one voucher.
Zooming tools are very useful whenever doing a presentation or training. It helps both the people at the back of the room, as well as drawing people’s attention to the area of the screen you need them to be looking at.
On the PC I’ve used ZoomIt, which is part of Microsoft’s SysInternals tools.
Recently I’ve found Zoom It for the Mac, which is cheap, and works like a charm.
Why am I starting this post with such a silly question? Of course software developers know how to use software! Or maybe not…?
Am I a good developer?
What makes it for a good developer, anyway?
For many years I’ve focused quite a bit on programming languages, IDE’s, patterns, and all those things that are definitely fun for most developers. Mastering those things, however, does NOT turn someone into a great developer. Knowing those things well is very important, but there’s more to it.
I’ve seen developers who…
- spend a lot of time building applications, but not using software productively themselves;
- seem uncomfortable using their own tools, not learning the bare minimum in their IDE for things like quick file lookup, code navigation, code completion, etc;
- don’t adjust their environment in order to reduce the friction when getting things done;
- don’t take the time to understand what it is that they need to get done.
What is it that I’m building?
Most developers are supposed to develop the software designed to automate somebody’s tasks, workflows, etc (others may be building games and such, which is a different story). I believe a good software developer should be able to understand the business, identify its needs, and then think of good solutions. Sounds simple, but I keep seeing cases where people start to code without really understand what needs to be built.
Am I productive?
When a developer doesn’t bother about automating repetitive tasks of his or her own, the likelihood of achieving success doing that for the client is very slim.
I used to do a presentation on “productivity”. I talked about tools and add-ons, but just spitting out code as fast as possible doesn’t mean we’re productive, so I also talked about the mindset and techniques I use, while always asking myself “why am I doing this again?”.
My conclusion (for the time being)…
I have had clients tell me they decided to hire me after seeing how I use technology. They say they see me using my smartphone, my tablet, and my computers in ways they haven’t thought of. They say they believe I use these things not because they’re “cool”, “flashy”, “trendy”, but because I focus on the benefits and results instead. They believe that if I’m able to automate my life this way, I’m qualified to automate theirs, too.
These are things that keep coming back to me and I feel like I need to explore more into it, as it’s giving me good results.
At least one extra screen is essential for me. Many years ago I posted about Organizing Windows and Multiple Monitors.
When I migrated to using a Mac most of the time, as well as using an iPad for many things, I was happy to know there was a way to use the iPad as a secondary monitor. That to me was great because whenever I wasn’t at my normal working place (maybe traveling to clients or conferences) I always have both my Mac and my iPad with me, so I could still work in a dual-screen set up (not huge screens like I prefer, but still…).
At the time I wrote up about that: Setting an iPad as an extra monitor. That approach, however, wasn’t flawless. The app I was using, Air Display, connected the Mac and the iPad through the wi-fi network. In some networks, I just couldn’t get this to work. Also, there was a noticeable lag when moving between screens.
Fortunately, about a year ago I found this app: Duet Display. Life was good again. This app uses the iPad USB cable to connect to the Mac, and it has zero lag.
Now I just need to get me that bigger iPad!