These days procrastination seems like a more obvious choice than focus. Especially when you take into consideration infinite scrolling possibilities on your phone, several Slack channels you are a part of, and two or more inboxes you are handling. Not to mention all those notifications you get on your smartphone. Be it only some information about the latest app update you can download, they distract.
Just easy as that, you can end up spending huge chunks of time dealing with interrupted work before you concentrate on a single task for an hour or more.
Also, while getting distracted is quite easy, time management is far from that. As a matter of fact, it does include a lot of effort to use time in the most efficient way possible.
If you are new to the time management world, you do not have to make big plans now. You can start off with tracking. Simply track everything you do. It does not matter if you put it on paper or use some of those apps you are already using for task tracking. If you can’t plan anything now, don’t worry, you can do it later. Update the list as often as you can, or at least spare several minutes in the morning and at the end of the day. After a couple of days, you will start noticing patterns of recurring tasks and interrupters. Spoiler alert: some of them may even surprise you!
Analyze the list, find the tasks that are not really a priority. Identify the ones that you can delegate to someone else, or even the tasks that can be done more effectively.
“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”
Stephen R. Covey
After the tracking period is over, you will have sufficient data to start a planning phase. You will have information such as the length of time needed for some actions. Perhaps this will be related to the order in which they occur. Or maybe even certain days which are related to specific tasks that will come up. Yes, your breaks and time needed for a meeting preparation should be on the list too. Some people avoid including these two points in their schedule, but they may consume significant time.
If Joe Doe manages his time in one way, it does not mean that his techniques are something that agrees with you. Having that in mind, your favorite time management style is something you need to find while trying out several of them and finding the one that suits you. In the end, the most important result is to be more consistent in rendering more productivity, not in following someone’s footsteps by word.
If you are comfortable with breaks after an hour of focusing on a task, perfect! If you are more of a Pomodoro technique fan, go ahead and apply it as often as you can.
“What may be done in any time will be done in no time.”
It’s O.K. to step away from the plan once in a while
Maybe you have not expected that when you started out your development career, but there is a chance that you learned along the way to expect the unexpected.
Projects can change considerably in the process for various reasons, and all you can do is to adapt and get back to the whiteboard or Jira at your earliest convenience.
Multitasking? Try not to.
You will hear now and again people bragging about their multitasking abilities. However, it’s only bragging. Jumping from a project onto the email inbox, and then onward to Linkedin, breaking news that popped out on your smartphone, checking out the meme you got in a casual Slack channel, or a Medium article that just arrived in another, is rarely a great idea when you have a task and a deadline.
Refocusing on your initial task takes around 15 minutes, though some say it goes to a whopping 23 minutes and 15 seconds, so the math is clear. In the best-case scenario, if you get distracted only 3 times a day while you are at work, you are losing one whole hour of effective work.
Of course, the numbers in different case studies may vary, yet the fact of inevitable task-switching cost remains.
Working on your discipline takes discipline. Yet the reward in the form of a healthier lifestyle or more productivity is waiting for you down that road.
P.S. For more skills to pay attention to, check out another blog related to essential skills for programmers?
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