3 steps to improving your productivity

3 steps to improving your productivity

Time. Its one thing we never seem to have enough of, and the only asset we have that is truly irreplaceable. I would be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t had added stress from trying to push the limits, doing too much too fast, and having days lost to being burned out.

Over the past several months, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to help improve my productivity, reduce stress, and increase my quality of life. After a good deal of tweaking, I wanted to share what I’ve found to be the 3 key steps which have been working for me.

Cut back on your notifications

This is the first step, and by far easiest step. On my phone, I have at least 4 different email address + work filtering in at any time. Combined with phone calls, SMS messages, Facebook, Twitter, and Candy birds, a lot of notifications start coming in.

Have you ever felt your leg vibrate, only to realize you don’t even have you phone on you? Have you ever heard a ring, and nothing was on your phone.

This is an effect of over-saturation of notifications, and in reality, how many of them are really important?

So step 1: turn off your notifications. Rather than letting your phone control your attention, turn off the vibrations, audio alerts, and notifications. If you want to check your email, check it when you decide to, not when your phone tells you to.

Consolidate and organize your life

These days, most blogs and magazines preach separating your work and life, stick to 9 to 5 and then turn your phone off, keep your weekends for yourself, stick to a 40 hour work week (or even try to have a 4 hour work week). While these are great things to strive for, if you are anything like me, neither life, nor work, tend to stick to their aforementioned schedules. Trying to juggle between my work list and life list left be tired and frustrated.

Merge your to-do lists

Work is a priority. So is life. So why do I find myself separating both of these to-do lists and letting one take over another.

The first thing I did on realizing this, was merging my work list and life list in to one spot. Now, I can finally see everything I’m trying to get done in one place, and prioritize accordingly.

Stop confining your time

Sometimes life gets in the way of work, or work gets in the way of life. Part of managing your life is allowing yourself to be flexible when things come up. You might have a late night meeting with a client across the globe, or want to take and afternoon to see your child’s recital. There is no reason to feel guilty for adjusting your schedule to fit these things. Understand that if work or life bleeds over one another, you can manage your time to make up for the displaced hours. The goal is to get things done while living a fulfilling life, not sacrifice one for the other.

Use a tasking system

Over the years, I’ve gone through many time tracking systems. To-do lists, Trello, Hubstaff, Excel, etc. Finally, I came across a video post by one of my favorite tech bloggers, John Sonmez. His video, “How I plan my workweek,” introduced me the concept of Kanban boards (which is what Trello provides) with the addition of Pomodoro timers, and using Kanban Flow as my tasking software.

I’ll give you a minute to watch the video, but the idea is simple, using your task list, you begin to estimate each task in the number of pomodoros it will take to complete. A pomodoro is a slot of 25 minutes of uninterrupted work, with 5 or 15 minute breaks in between. No email, no phone, no interruptions. Over time you begin to understand how many pomodoros you can do in a day, week, and month.

I find it incredibly surprising at how much work I can get done when I’m focused in on a single task for a given period of time. In fact, I’ve been working through my back-log of work very quickly over the past weeks.

My next surprise, was how much I was actually trying to fit in to a week. Almost 60 pomodoros of work, and another 40 of life activities. No wonder I was feeling drained. I notice that when I try to do too many pomodoros in a day, I end up burned out the next on, averaging less effective time between both days then if I slowed down. And slowing down is exactly what I did. It’s working well, I’m starting to stay on top of things, and seeing improvements in my attention, energy, and sense of accomplishment.

I suggest you watch John Sonmez’s short video, and try out some of these techniques for yourself. I’d love to hear about your results!


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New It

New IT – The evolution of Enterprise Technology

Today we discuss a very exciting topic. New IT.

New IT is focused on making enterprise technology more efficient, faster reacting, and market relevant, all through concepts such as light weight architectures, Agile and Scrum Methodologies, Design Thinking, and Automation.

Hi guys, AJ here with another blog. Today, I wanted to talk about new IT. This is a subject that I’m really excited about.

New IT is a set of principles or ideas that are focused on changing the way we bring technology solutions to the market.

Today, every company is a software company. If a company doesn’t think they’re a software company, then they’re being disrupted by software companies.

Let’s take an example: the taxi industry. The taxi industry has been around for generations worldwide. This is an industry that’s typically founded on a company purchasing a number of taxis, hiring a number of drivers, and then putting them out on the streets for them to go look for passengers.

Now let’s look at Uber. Almost everybody knows who Uber is; if they haven’t used Uber, then they’ve heard about Uber in the news. Uber is turning the taxi industry on its head. And they’re not doing it by reducing margins or buying better vehicles or changing out the drivers. They’re doing it with a software application, or an app.

Uber’s app enables anybody to download it, sign up, and become a driver. Or they can download it and call an Uber driver right to them. This is a technology solution, and it’s a great example of how software is turning a non-technology industry on its head.

Let’s talk about some of the things that make up new IT, especially with enterprises who are looking to hit the market faster with more relevant solutions.

1. Lightweight architectures.

Lightweight architectures are focused on building micro-services. These are essentially taking all the pieces of a large, complex enterprise system and breaking them up into reusable, smaller components.

These components, when put together, can take up the function of massive systems. At the same time, each of the services are easily understandable, consumable by external systems or applications (other than the primary application), and can be reused in different ways to end with different results, so you’re not programming things from the ground up every time.

2. Agile development.

Agile development and Scrum methodologies are a philosophy of delivering parts of projects faster. We take that by doing the same thing we did in micro-services, by looking at all of the requirements of an application and breaking them into smaller chunks called stories. These stories are then prioritized by the client stakeholder, who decides which ones are more important than others. These stories are given to a team of developers, who then take a certain amount of stories and develop them in what’s called a sprint.

The goal of each sprint, which is usually timeboxed to about 2 weeks, is to deliver a PSI, a potentially shippable product. That product is something that can be tested and demonstrated to the stakeholders and then validated for functionality and use. HERE In the next sprint, the developer team can either go back and make other fixes or move onto the next set of stories.

3. Automating enterprise software.

When we talk about automating, we’re focusing primarily on two things: the testing and deployment of the software.

Today, large scale software companies are still deploying complex systems in a way that requires huge amounts of resources. They’re manually taking these systems and running them piece by piece through different stages of production. Once a release is developed, it typically takes weeks if not months to get that out to public release. So we end up burning time having people manually migrating through staging environments and test environments. We have people doing testing by hand, usually large QA teams, who then have to be documented, and then the software goes back to the developers for fixes. It’s long and inefficient.

When we talk about automation, When code is developed and committed, it goes through an automated testing platform that checks everything over. Once that’s past, we get into DevOps tools that will take your code that’s been tested and push it right to production. This means that many times, enterprises and software companies can have nightly product releases to their clients, knowing that it works and that everybody’s up to date. This is great news for enterprises. We can react quickly to the market.

4. Design thinking.

This is another core foundation of new IT and the last one I’m going to touch on. Design thinking supersedes everything and asks: How are we coming up with the ideas? How are we thinking about software products and bringing them to market? What is our strategy?

It’s highly collaborative and experimental. It relies on ideation, rapid prototyping, coming up with things, and failing fast. We’re talking about tight release cycles, just like in agile, and getting things to market quickly, making sure that this is actually the path that we want to go down.

This is just a little bit of the concept of new IT. It’s very exciting stuff that we’re bringing to enterprise, like the idea of liquid applications: always moving, always changing. As enterprises start embracing this, we’re going to see a new ecosystem of fast reacting solutions that are always relevant and always providing value.

Have a great weekend, guys! Thanks.