I write code for living and the main asset I have in my daily routine is deep focus. Nowadays there are so many potential distractions which lead to people sitting at a workplace 8+ hours and still accomplish nothing. Also there are additional factors that can affect productivity such as: accumulated stress, long work hours, private life issues, sleep deprivation etc.

I am going to concentrate on some techniques that have been accumulated over the years.

Turn off notifications

Notifications are the number one enemy of productivity. If you are trying to accomplish something you should turn off your phone completely and keep the programs you use on very low notification settings.

If you are an iPhone, iPad user there is a nice set of options for every installed app under Settings -> notifications -> app. I suggest to tweak each one of the apps individually and especially the ones that are used the most. Facebook and any kind of messaging client with turned on notifications can easily ruin your day.

For example at Fishbrain we use Slack for daily team communication and we are heavily tweaking the notification options per user/needs. One of the proven measures is to turn on notifications only for mentions both on desktop and mobile.

Pro Slack tip: completely disable the Mac dock icon notifications - https://slack.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/201675007

And now all that remains is: silence :)

Separation by headphones

This is a well known old school technique used for years by developers to isolate themselves from the environment. It still works and you can definitely use it to your advantage, especially if you work in a crowded space.

There are also some alternative isolation techniques like the "Wired In" productivity sign project:

http://wearewired.in/

Getting to know your enemy

Sometimes it is hard to see what it is exactly blocking the productivity flow. Many people believe that tools like RescueTime can help in getting to know your enemy. This application will run in the background of your computer and track everything you do. After a while you can go in and analyze your behavioral patterns.

Write it down

Writing you daily/weekly/monthly goals has a great power on our minds. It has been scientifically proven that writing down goals increases your chance to get stuff done and earn more. The medium you use for this can be a good old paper as well as an application.

Here are some options sorted by effectiveness:

  • paper ( best memory imprint results )
  • simple text editor ( notes on Mac, notepad on Windows )
  • Evernote

Pomodoro technique

This is a well known technique in productivity hacking. Wikipedia describes it best:

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as "pomodori", the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for "tomato". The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.

Searching for "Pomodoro" on the AppStore or Google Play will result in a bunch of different apps that can be used for the purpose. Experiment with a couple of them to find a good match.

I found this technique especially useful in consulting work when billing by the hour. Not measuring time leads to approximations which are always inaccurate.

Have you checked your email?

According to this poll, almost 60% of people check mail more than 5 times a day and 9% open the inbox more than 40 times a day.

This data by itself illustrates the amount of time that can be lost on email. Imagine opening the inbox 40 times a day and taking action on emails. That is an insane amount of time repeating the same actions all over again.

In most cases there is another medium where people can reach you for stuff that requires immediate response, be it a direct chat with mentions on a chat client or the good old telephone.

Some authors such as Tim Ferris suggest a very radical approach with checking emails only in specifically predefined periods during the day and/or week.

http://fourhourworkweek.com/2007/03/22/how-to-check-e-mail-twice-a-day-or-once-every-10-days/

The moral is, keep an eye on your mailing habits and reduce as much as possible.

Todo lists

Todo lists are pretty powerful in the sense that they give you a clear picture of what needs to be done in which order.

Some of the good ones are: Todoist, Wunderlist, Remember the milk

I have used all of these but currently I am particularly satisfied with Todoist, it has a nice set of features and the notion of Karma which shows you a visual representation of your productivity.

Time boxed meetings

All meetings in the company should be time boxed, SoundCloud uses 30 minute meeting sessions. This forces all people in the meeting to come better prepared and avoid unneeded discussion.

Even if the meetings are time boxed, unexpected issues will arise, at Fishbrain we usually compile a list of items that need to be discussed separately after the meeting with clear assignments.

Enjoy your new productivity levels!