You feel busy, wish you had more time and work really hard but feel like you are still behind. Sound familiar? It’s time to do a retrospective on your calendar.
I use a program called RescueTime to analyze my productivity in conjunction with BusyCal. I have tuned the software to run from 9a-5p only Mon-Thu. I don’t like to analyze my Morning Think or nightly reading routines and work at home on Friday usually declining meetings. A few weeks ago RescueTime told me that I was averaging 6hrs per day talking, on skype or in meetings. No wonder I was struggling to keep up with my workload.
I decided to try an experiment to see if I could reduce the 15 or so meetings I had on my calendar for the upcoming week. I reached out to Project Managers explaining what I was doing and asking to be removed from the meeting request for a few weeks. I promised to rejoin if my name kept coming up in the meeting. This worked and I have reduced some of my standing meetings freeing up some quality time to be productive.
Our our software development team we are using agile and have a scheduled retrospective at the end of each release (quarter). It is important to physically block time for the team to analyze how they work together, pros and cons and ideas to improve efficiency. I am finding this same concept is important to the quality of your personal productivity. Do yourself a favor and conduct a calendar retrospective.
Looking at my book shelf organized with business books, seeing my iPad filled with iBook samples and seeing the New York Times Sunday edition laying around would make you think I’m a big reader. In fact, I’m a fraud. I’m the person that likes to start lots of books, read for a few minutes at a time and hardly ever finishes a book. I pre-ordered Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld and read it from start to finish the day it arrived.
Do More Faster is divided into 7 Themes: Idea and Vision, People, Execution, Product, Fundraising, Legal and Structure and Work-Life Balance. Within each Theme are several 1-3 page stories written by Entrepreneurs, VCs and other interesting people in the software, internet, product development, startup realm. It’s a great format for the hyper caffeinated, ADHD, check twitter while your reading type of personality.
This book was fun for me to read because many contributors are familiar faces I either work with in some capacity or have seen around the flourishing Boulder/Denver tech community.
Chapters that blew me away and taught me something brand new:
- To 83(b) or not to 83(b), There is No Question – Matt Galligan
- Usage is like Oxygen for Ideas – Matt Mullenweg
- Karma Matters – Warren Katz
- Don’t Plan, Prototype – Greg Reinacker
Chapters that reinforced some of my favorite work related topics:
- Don’t Suck at E-mail – David Cohen
- Get Out from behind Your Computer – Seth Levine
- Be Specific – Brad Feld
- Get Feedback Early – Nate Abbott and Natty Zola
If you want motivation for anything you are doing I highly recommend Do More Faster.
I set my iPhone Alarm for 5:10am, currently to the ringtone Viva la Vida by ColdPlay. Most days during the work week I am able to wake up, sometimes I need to sleep in and I do, no pressure. On some advice from Brad Feld, I have created a routine for my wake up: turn off alarm, coffee already brewing, standup and stretch, grab robe, walk downstairs. I have found having a routine for getting yourself out of bed is a key part of being able to wake up early.
I have set no rules for myself for this early morning time, it’s my time. As I sit down at my computer I check email, twitter, sometimes read through my RSS feeds…it’s my time to think, surf and read.
A result of this no pressure approach is that I get to see where the morning takes me. Sometimes the first tweet I read takes me down a path of learning something completely new. For example, a few days ago I watched a 30 minute interview of Mike Wallace and Frank Lloyd Wright at 5:30am! I’ve also had mornings in which I sit down and start chipping away at my Inbox. If I had this scheduled or planned I am sure I would not be able to drag myself out of bed. I’ve had great IM sessions with friends on the other side of the globe, written blog posts, worked on startup ideas, fixed bugs, watched videos, caught up on Facebook and more during my morning think sessions.
As much as I practice GTD and follow concepts advocated by people like David Allen, I feel that having total free time to think, read and learn is key to work happiness. By the way, I am writing this at 6:04am as I pour my second cup of coffee. I wonder what today has in store for me.