I’ve grown up reading Tom Clancy and probably most of you have at least seen Red October, so this book caught my eye when browsing used books for a recent trip. It’s a fairly human look at what’s involved in sailing on a Trident missile submarine…
Productivity is hard to measure when your work has no definite structure like a typical office job. You may operate within the traditional 9-5 office job but the nature of working around databases requires flexibility; and, the focus is shifting constantly minute by minute. One moment you’re looking at something so mundane; the next moment, you’re on another task trying to put out a fire on an incident you’ve never experienced before.
The job of the data pro revolves around what Paul Graham calls Maker’s Schedule, in which the block of time is defined in half-day increments. This is the opposite of Manager’s Schedule in which a day is divided into 1-hour chunks.
The time required to accomplish one thing on any given day varies from one task to another. But as a maker, the data pro can only find productivity success if he or she can manage to get through the day with intense focus despite the usual interruption.
The following productivity elements can help you get things done amidst the chaos:
The List To Live By
The old, trusty List might be, well, old school but you need it to survive life as a data pro. You live and die by what you put in or not put in on your list. Listing your task by priority can go a long way. It is a guide that keeps you on track with the day’s objective – that is to finish as much work as possible.
The list can give you a thousand feet view of your day. It will also give you an idea of how would you want to tackle your tasks. The list is a great tool for planning your day.
The Productive Emotions
There are the must-do tasks that go on top of your list. Any showstoppers would go on top. How do you prioritize the remaining tasks? Some would do the snowball trick – do the smallest task first to gain momentum. Or, some tend to eat their frog first – tasks that they are most likely to procrastinate on.
Ask yourself these questions when prioritizing your tasks: Which task, when done, can give me that instant rush of a sense of accomplishment? Which task is most likely to give me that momentum that I need? Which task simply makes me happy (for whatever reason) to be doing? Which task am I trying to avoid but will be happy to get rid of in my todo list?
Simple questions like these will determine the order of your priority.
Choose Your Poison
Getting Things Done (GTD) is one of the most popular productivity systems. As a system, it is a guide to maximizing output and minimizing input. The core of this system is its 5-stage Workflow: Collect, Process, Organize, Review, and Do. The List is part of the first stage, Collect. GTD could be overwhelming. Here’s how Doug Purnell (t | b) has adopted the system into his daily routines.
Kanban is another popular system. It gives you a visual representation of your tasks and their statuses. Your Kanban board can give you a quick view of the progress status of all the tasks on your plate. There’s nothing more simple than marking/moving your task from Do, Doing, and Done statuses. You always aim to move all your tasks under the Done column at the end of each day.
Manage Time Management
The doing part can be tricky. Some interruptions are beyond our control. There is also the issue of procrastination. An effective tool to manage interruption and procrastination is the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro is a time-boxing productivity technique that forces you to remain focus on the task at hand for 25 minutes with a 5-minute break at the end of that 25 minutes. These count as one (1) Pomodoro. You can take 15-30 minutes break after your fourth Pomodoro. A task should not exceed 7 Pomodoros. If a task requires more than that, then break the task into sub-tasks.
The Pomodoro Technique is an implementation of both Time-Boxing and Batching concepts. You can adapt these concepts as separate systems and apply them to your routine.
What’s your productivity system? Do you have productivity tips and tricks? Share them in the comment below.