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Developer – get a boost to your workday

Jun 20, 2022 12:00:00 AM Timo Kiander

Development work, like any other knowledge work, is often fragmented. Information, requests and other things come from several different sources, and keeping everything in mind is challenging.

With a few simple tips, you can better manage the flow of ideas and tasks, and your working will become more efficient. These tips are easy to implement in everyday life, and you can immediately see their benefits in your daily work.

1. Schedule your distractions

Sitting by the computer screen, you constantly get thoughts, ideas or other things running in your mind that hamper your concentration. If you give in to these thoughts, you will soon find yourself doing something completely different than what you were originally supposed to do.

A good way to deal with thoughts popping up in and out of your mind is to schedule your distractions using a so-called distraction list. In this list, you can compile all the things that come to mind while you work.

The distraction list will benefit you in two ways:

First of all, when you write a thought down somewhere, you can get it our of your head and it does not draw you away from the task at hand. 

Secondly, the idea is recorded somewhere. This way, for instance, a good idea does not slip away but is stored away for later exploration.

Of course, you can manage your distractions electronically, but I prefer pen and paper. It is the fastest and easiest way to record the things spinning in your mind.

However, it is not enough to keep a distraction list because the issues that are recorded in it must also be dealt with, for example, through these three points:

  1. If something no longer makes sense later, remove it from the list.
  2. If it can be done in two minutes or less, get it out of the way as soon as possible.
  3. If the matter requires further processing and doing it takes more than two minutes, put it on your work list and schedule the task.

You should handle things in this routine two or three times a day. This way, all the recorded issues can be dealt with without interfering with your work.

2. Plan out your day

If you created a distraction list for yourself, you are already a little further down the road to successfully managing your interruptions and distractions. But while the distraction list is suitable for “dumping” things out of your mind, the work list keeps stored away all the essential things that you should focus on during the work day.

While I recommended using pen and paper for managing the distraction list, it could be wise to use an electronic system for managing the work list. Task management is easier electronically, and you will not forget anything due to post-it notes falling off the table. 

When planning your work list for the day, you should think carefully about how many tasks you can actually do during the day. This due to the fact that we often overestimate how much we can do in a day. The result can also be depressing when you find that you did not get everything on the list done.

Instead of the quantity, it is worth investing in the importance. Instead of making the list too long, you should, for instance, choose three of the most important tasks that you will focus on during the day. 

For example, you can push the tasks that were not completed to the next day to work on them later. If tasks have to be continuously postponed to the next day, it is worth analysing the reasons for it and how to alleviate the situation. For example, splitting tasks into smaller parts might help.

And let's be honest: Even good planning cannot always guarantee that the most important things get done. For example, if a customer's system crashes, things other than those on the list will jump to the top of the work list.

3. Pause your work

Feeling stuck? Especially from the point of view of someone doing brainwork, sitting still does not always make working easier – even if there are no other distractions.

In problem situations, it is too easy to be left sitting by the computer to ponder the solution until something comes to mind. But this may not be the best way to solve the problem.

One good way I have found is to stand up and walk away from the computer. One should not think too long and hard about where to go for your break. If you are at the office, you can, for example, go to the vending machine to get a coffee. Or, if you are working from home, you can run down to the mailbox and get the mail. The important thing is that you simply get up and move. Both your brain and body will be grateful for the extra movement. 

I have noticed that oftentimes a good solution pops up out of nowhere when I move away from the computer. Even if I do not actively focus on the task in the moment, my brain continues to process it in the background, looking for a solution to the situation.

What next?

Not all of these tips need to be implemented at once. So, just pick one and see if it works. If you find it useful in a real way, incorporate it into your everyday life.

The easiest way to improve the efficiency of your work is to take small steps to get started.

The author of the text, Timo Kiander, is a Service Manager and Team Leader who develops maintenance services in Lappeenranta. Timo has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry, and he has also worked in the fields of micro support, server maintenance and software development during his career. Timo has written several books in English related to time management and keeps a blog around the topic of personal productivity. Outside of screen time, he enjoys spending time with his family and does endurance sports in the form of running, swimming and cycling.

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