Productivity

Over the past few years I have noticed that I’ve been doing less and less personal projects. Coincidentally, I have also felt that my skill level has not increased at the same level as before. These two I believe go hand in hand, and not doing many personal projects is definitely due to perceived busy-ness or stress.

Personal projects are excellent for many reasons. To me the most important of them is that you get to connect with your inner passion for the field. In web development as in most fields, a personal project is also the place where you can try out the cutting-edge workflows and technologies, which you can then use for clients.

By doing more personal projects, not only do you get to have some fun, but you learn new things. As we know, learning new things and trying new things is the best if not only way to be a great developer/consultant/[insert job title here]. Especially as a consultant, it is my duty to try out different things and then advise and use the ones who I have found to work.

It comes as no great surprise that Google has become famous for their 20% time projects, where employees could use 20% of their time to build something cool. Not only am I convinced that this is great for their skill-set, it is also bound to result in some great new products that could potentially be good for business too.

As I started out saying, I’ve been doing less and less of these because of perceived “busy-ness”. Filling my schedule to full with client projects eventually means pushing yourself to the limit where work is almost not fun anymore. I do believe that scaling back and spending a little more time on personal projects and furthering your skills makes you a better professional.

To sum up. Doing projects outside of client work, or “work” in general has many added benefits. Not only does it add to your passion for the field but it helps you further your skills and become better at what you do. Scale back a little and get cracking on something fun!

Like many others, I have plenty of ideas. Every week, or even every day, there is a new idea of something smart, fun or interesting that I ought to do. Either this is for my business, for myself or as a new venture.

Had I taken action on all of these passionately in one go, I would never have gotten anything done. It’s a shame though not to have a decently organized system in place to capture the ideas. When you get one, you should have some way of capturing it so that you can refer to it later. Personally I do this with an Evernote notebook, but any way you feel comfortable with works.

The crucial aspect is to revisit these on a regular basis. Browse through your ideas and perhaps refine them slightly, maybe disregard some completely, or go ahead and action on them.

What you are after is the routine to always be storing your ideas. We all have brilliant moments, but when failing to write down our thoughts and ideas, we might loose them forever.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all to varying degrees slaves under our email. Personally I can note this in two ways. First, if I’m waiting somewhere typically I pick up my iPhone and check my inbox. Secondly, the email inbox is typically one of the last things I check at night before going to bed.

The latter thing is particularly bad as there’s frequently an email that upsets or unnerves you that you should definitely not read when you are trying to relax before getting a good night’s sleep. Though, in a grand sense, we should all commit to checking email much less often.

I’ve always been an advocate of reducing the ways someone can demand my time, without me allowing it. I’m notoriously bad at answering my phone just because it decides to ring—preferring instead to return a call later when it suits me. It’s the same with email, only easier.

My Email Checking Routine
What I am doing is challenging myself to check email on a restricted schedule. Email is by definition not urgent. The times I have decided are: Once in the early morning (~6:30am), catching any late evening email; once after the first block of work (~9:30am), catching the morning email that most other send; once at lunch; once mid-afternoon; once before I leave the office and finally once in the mid-evening.

I chose several more times than is necessary for most, I do this because there are many others in my field who might consider email a little more urgent than I now do. I might however not reply to email in this “in-between” checks, but just check and make sure there’s nothing in there that I need to know.

And? Is it working?
The million dollar question. To a point. Some days it is harder than others (particularly when you want to procrastinate), while some days it is easier. Overall, it is a good thing to become less of a slave to email and taking better control over your day in that way.

A question that I get asked a lot is how I manage to fit everything that I do into my schedule and how my days look. Questions deserve answers and I’ll be trying here to break down a little of how one of my typical days would look like.

The Morning
I usually start my day with the alarm sounding at 5:30am. Why so early? While I love my bed as much as the next person, I know I solve complex problems best with a fresh mind in the morning and I plan on using that to my advantage.

After a quick shower, I sit down with the first morning coffee and breakfast and have a look through my email to see if anything urgent has appeared. I’ll go through my newsfeeds on Flipboard and Feedly and occasionally check some newspapers too. This prepares me for what’s going on in the industry and the world.

This morning routine is (usually—when there’s not an emergency) very soothing and gets the day off to a great start!

The Office
I’m usually in the office no later than 7:30am to get started on the most important project for the day. After a couple of hours of uninterrupted, and by the time the rest of the world is starting to “wake up” it is usually time to check in on the email again to see if there’s anything special to attend to this morning.

The rest of the day then depends on what is most urgent and what’s on the plate. Meetings I try and keep to the afternoons if possible but calls are sometimes inevitable and the day usually contains a few more of these blocks of project time. Every day is unique in what it contains.

Flexibility… Every Day is Different
Some days will feature working from a café for a few hours to get a change in scenery (especially for writing) and some days I might work more from home, have lectures to give or attend, or be on the road. At least three days I week I try and head to the gym in the morning or mid-afternoon too depending on my state of mind.

The Evening
Having gotten an early start, I’m usually heading home by 4-5pm when I’ll get something to eat and get the household chores done. Usually I’ll do another round of check in my email in the evening and catch up on writing/email before. Before going to bed at 10pm, I spend at least half an hour reading some interesting articles or books to clear the day.

Overall
One of the benefits of being a business owner is that you can be flexible and shape your days as necessary. My personal struggle is always the low level of energy right before lunch and in the middle of the afternoon, which is why I try and schedule meetings at those hours (social events are energizing!) or get to the gym to regain some energy.

With the flexibility comes great responsibility and clearly some days the energy just isn’t there, which is when you have to try and be smart about it and stir what you need to do around a bit to make the best use of the time and energy you have (and the things need).

What’s your daily routine like? I’d love to hear it!

We’re probably more in love with being productive than ever. Most every article online is about being more productive. Today, I want to reflect on the vicious cycle of clearing an inbox just a little too quickly, or sending something off to someone else a little too quickly.

One of the most common tips you read is to clear your inboxes efficiently and thus delegate quickly. This hunt for clearing out ones inbox as quickly as possible however comes at the expense of overall efficiency when delegating comes just a matter of shifting the problem quickly around.

See, done properly delegation is wonderful. Done poorly however it’s just an excuse for asking someone something that you could have easily found out yourself. This comes at the expense of everyone’s time.

When you force the problem onto someone else, even if it is simple, you need them to shift focus, look into it, become familiar with it and then get back with a reply. If this is something that you could have found out by doing a couple of minutes of research yourself, then this is nothing good.

I get the feeling that we today are a little too quick in dropping a problem into someone else’s lap without spending even just a few moments thinking about the bigger picture and familiarizing ourselves with it.

To me, this is a big problem and something to shy away from. I’m far from perfect myself, but I try and make it a habit to think something through twice before sending it off to someone else. It benefits all of us in the long run.