Busy, overwhelming work days are sometimes inevitable but with a little help from effective time savers or short cuts one can find that their days are more productive and less stressful. With that being said, I set out to find some “work-hacks” that would be useful to all those out there struggling with hectic days and prioritizing efficiently. So when trying to write an article about productivity, naturally I decided to start with the people working closest to me; here at Treeline! This is what they have to say…
What are some things you’ve implemented into your work life to make your office time most effective?
Cara: To make sure I’m being the most effective I can be, I focus on getting the most important things done on a day by day basis. A tool I use is the Kanban method to do list, keeping a backlog of everything as well as a combined use of Trello. Each day I prioritize by urgency to discover what needs to get done each day, then I move only those items over to my to do list. For bigger projects I strategize and plan it out in chunks over a timeline with a tool like TeamGantt. I keep it agile and update as needed, but this sets the framework for deadlines and the way for items to make my daily must-do list. Lastly right now my go to inspiration is a book I recently read by Sarah Knight. I combine her insights with some Agile-based software tools.
Aaron: When my days are crazy and I know I have too much to do, I focus on one task to complete by the end of the day. This helps me to compartmentalize and focus on a single task, instead of worrying about what will not get done and spinning my wheels trying to to start everything and finish nothing.
Andrew: I think that my “work hacks” are really just a series of old fashioned techniques that fit my personality which border on overcompensation, over-preparation, and the desire to do my best even when it might be unreasonable given time constraints:
- I don’t like to be surprised, or underprepared, so I often over prepare for tasks no matter their complexity so that I can be certain that success will be inevitable,
- I like to take time to think through software engineering implementation details before beginning coding, even if it requires a significant amount of effort to determine if something is feasible; almost always this requires a pen and paper and a lot of thinking both at work, on the bus, on the couch at home, and even in bed sometimes.Once I have an implementation path I can mock it up through entity relationship diagrams or flowcharts and be confident that it will work as planned.
- I like to begin working on a problem weeks before it is assigned to me to complete so that I can unblock any implementation deficiencies before they become official blockers–sometimes this means researching the best libraries to tackle a particular problem to ensure that when we begin implementation we’re using the best tools. Who begins a home renovation without researching the appropriate tools and materials prior to beginning work? Likewise, in software engineering we must have tools at our disposal once work commences, or our work might suffer.
Yosef: Time boxing- In a rapidly changing environment where priorities are constantly shifting it’s important to time box certain activities (tasks) so that you don’t spend too much time on one thing and allow it to become a time sink. If you find yourself stuck on a problem time box it and if you don’t complete it in that time then move on and come back to it later with a fresh mind
Timur: For me, it’s all about taking notes. I take notes on literally everything. This frees up the mental bandwidth for things that I have to figure out as part of my daily job duties. Things that I do more than once or twice get added to my notes and I can just reference that later instead of hunting around for an email, searching through Slack, or waiting for a response from someone. I also take notes for all my time tracking. Instead of taking the time to access Tempo Time tracking I’ll just jot down a quick note and do it all at once at the end of the week. It seems like once I get in the rhythm of logging time it’s just quicker and more efficient to do it all at once. Another thing I try to be aware of is setting up meetings with only the people that absolutely need to be there. That way I don’t waste someone else’s time if they don’t need to be concerned with the subject matter.
Carter: I create a list of items at the end of everyday that I need to get done the next day, the list can carry over but having myself stare at it in my calendar effectively shames me into crossing off items everyday. I time box both small items and large items. To do this I set aside time for the large project items and the small project items in order to always be making progress. Also make sure to cross items off while still moving forward on your larger initiatives
Essentially it’s not about having time, it’s about making time. This can be done through time-boxing, taking notes, and compartmentalizing. Although it can be hard to make time planning what you need to get done that day, week, or month it allows you to see your goals accordingly. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have several tasks nibbling at your brain. Take the time to equip yourself with the productivity tools that best suit you and tailor them to your needs.The payoff will be bigger. Seek out the silver linings and get cracking.
Illustration by: Justyna Piwowarska