Productivity refers to the quality or effectiveness of the work we do. We want to feel productive, but different people are productive in different ways. At LaunchDarkly, our goal is to help teams build better software, faster. Essentially, we help people be more productive.
In choosing the topic for this week, Toggle thought productivity was the perfect topic. We are all having to reset expectations on what it means to be productive. They’ve heard a lot of people saying, “I’m not feeling very productive these days,” and they want you to know you are not alone.
Questions we posed on productivity:
- What does productivity mean to you?
- Tips on staying productive.
- How are you most productive?
- What gets in the way of your productivity?
- How has your productivity changed in the last month? Are you still expecting yourself to be as productive as you were before?
Many people are feeling less productive as they are adjusting to remote work with room-mates, partners, pets, and/or kids. All while trying to maintain their physical & mental well-being. This takes a toll on your personal and professional productivity.
For me, I’ve been working remotely for years. But now it’s not just me at home, my child and spouse are home too. My productivity is not what it has been previously. I need silence to write. My house is rarely silent these days, it’s taking me longer to write (I’m grateful to my spouse for taking our son out for a walk so I can get some writing done today). I’m also taking daily breaks for parental duty which may look like making lunch, going for a walk, helping with school work, or doing an activity together.
There’s a difference between productivity and busywork. Being busy is good, but don’t confuse that with being productive.
Q: What does productivity mean to you?
“Don’t confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but doesn’t make any progress.” – Alfred Armand Montapert#ToggleTalk
— Steve Klassen (He/Him) (@mrxinu) April 8, 2020
Motivation and productivity go hand in hand. It can be overwhelming to think about how much time a project will take or how many items are on your to-do list. Getting started may be the hardest part. Here are some tips to help with that:
- If working on a big project, set mini-goals. This gives you a feeling of accomplishment as you meet those mini-goals.
- Create nested to-do lists. To-do lists tend to grow as you add more items. Each morning identity three things you must accomplish. Even if they’re low hanging fruit, celebrate that you achieved them.
Q: What gets in the way of your productivity?
Motivation. I can usually eliminate interruptions, but sometimes I struggle with motivation, and feeling like no one notices when I try less, so why should I try more? #toggletalk
— Laura Nevis (@TheWheeledDBA) April 8, 2020
One thing that frequently gets in the way of productivity is distractions and interruptions. People may say they’re good at multi-tasking, but what they are really doing is context switching. Context switching comes at a cost. Let people focus on a task without interruptions.
The topic is productivity. For me, I find what gets in the way of my productivity the most as someone that is neurodivergent is being asked to context switch! Letting people focus on one thing at a time = productive!
— Rin Oliver is job hunting! (they/them) (@kiran_oliver) April 8, 2020
A common form of distraction is interrupt messages. Whether these messages are in Slack, email, text, or your brain telling you there is something more pressing you need to be working on. Silencing these messages can help you be productive.
Modern messaging systems are terrible offenders of destroying productivity. I think it’s important to educate those around you that focus time means logging out of IM systems.
— Nathan Pearce (@PearceNathan) April 8, 2020
A great way to reduce some of the context switching is to schedule breaks. You may think taking a break is counter-productive. It’s not. If you schedule breaks to browse the internet, respond to messages on Slack, read a book or unload the dishwasher, those tasks aren’t distracting you during your focus time and give you a chance to recharge.
Nathan Pearce, the host of REDtalks.live videocast, shared a very cool example of a spreadsheet he uses to help him schedule focus time and breaks.
I love that the spreadsheet lists ideas of what to do during the breaks. This way, you can be productive on your breaks as well as during the focus time. Need some suggestions on ways to recharge during your breaks? Check out this list of Self-Calming and Self-Recharging activities from Harvard University.
Spring is here, the trees are budding, and flowers are blooming (so my allergies tell me). Spring sometimes triggers increased productivity as the sun is out for longer. This spring may seem a little different as we are adjusting to stay-at-home orders and the unique professional situations this creates.
If you’re not working on side-projects, learning new skills, or baking up a storm—that’s ok. Do what you need to take care of yourself. Becoming productive at self-care still counts as productivity!
Thanks to everybody that participated and shared resources. See you next week on #ToggleTalk.
P.S. Want more information on staying or getting productive? Check out the resources below:
Tools and processes
- David Allen’s GTD Methodology
- Trello, Microsoft To Do, or good old fashioned pen and paper if you want to go non-digital.
I encourage you to check out eBooks from your local library or look into purchasing from an independent bookseller.
- SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal
- The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- Making Work Visible by Dominica Degrandis