#ToggleTalk 2: Productivity

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ToggleTalk-LaunchDarkly

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.

Highlight reel

There’s a difference between productivity and busywork. Being busy is good, but don’t confuse that with being productive.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Summary

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:

Resources

Tools and processes

Books

I encourage you to check out eBooks from your local library or look into purchasing from an independent bookseller.

 

Dawn Parzych
Dawn is a Developer Advocate at LaunchDarkly where she uses her storytelling prowess to write and speak about the intersection of technology and psychology. She enjoys helping people be more successful at work and in life.