Sometimes bad habits are like playing whack-a-mole. You take care of one and another pops up. I’ve had a recent spate of bad productivity habits come out. Here they are, with all the warts, and what I am doing about them.
My job recently shifted. I used to be the sole person who did the programming for my client, my tech lead would check it and move the code out, and my project manager would facilitate the prioritized list from which I would work. My tech lead and project manager are the latest in a string of many I have seen in the last few months, as the company keeps reorganizing around me; they are both very good, but neither knows the client, the programs or the data well. (As a side note, both will be replaced in the next few months due to some team realignment.)
That all shifted when I became responsible for 3 new products for the same client. We added an offshore developer to help with the workload, and I became responsible for sorting work, assigning it, tracking it, then checking over the work. Due to some pressing data issues, I also started getting more questions from the folks I support who work directly with the client.
I’ve honestly tried to keep as productive, but I have picked up some bad habits. My work time is fragmented and I let things slip as a result of it. Here is what has happened, and what I am doing to combat it.
We use IM in our office to answer quick questions. Mainly used by the programmers, I also have a connection to my offshore counterpart as well as my operations folks. This gives us faster interaction than email, and solves problems quickly. Unfortunately, IM questions can derail me very quickly if I am working on something that requires my full attention.
I’ve blocked out the first half hour of my work day to deal with my offshore counterpart’s questions. Beyond that, if I have concentrated work to do, I need to exit IM altogether.
Not Having A Plan
Dealing with a data mess lately that needs to be transmitted yesterday (literally), I have let functions slide. I need to review my counterpart’s code, but without writing it down, I lose track of it until the end of the day, when I (again) send the apology email that I didn’t get to it, but I will try to tomorrow.
By making a list of what needs to be attended to to keep the process moving, and doing it first, I can get by this.
Turning Off Email
You would think turning off email would not be a bad habit, right? I used to only have email turned on at 10:00 and 2:00. The current amount of interaction due to the data feeds requires that I have to have email open at all times. But constantly getting pinged was distracting.
I set my email to send and receive every hour, and I turned off all desktop notifications. This is partially successful, so I am going to have to set up some new processing rules so that I only get notified of the important things. This means I am going to have to keep on top of email every day, and make an effort to not let my inbox get clogged with conversations that only tangentially relate to me.
Working Through Lunch
Once again, I have started staying at my desk to eat lunch. Unfortunately, even if I intend to read or catch up on blogs, inevitably someone will ping me. I then answer the question, and the next thing I know, it’s time to go home.
I need to get up and leave my desk. The weather is nice enough now that I can sit outside to read; I can even bring a mini-laptop and get some writing done. The point, though, is to get away.
All of these things are solvable, but only if I make an effort to draw some boundaries and stick to them. Sometimes the best route to productivity is just drawing limits for yourself.
Photo by Very Quiet