Friday, August 24, 2012

Work is just a rhythm

After spending over a year working alone on I’ve found the biggest challenge is staying focused every day. When people work together in an office there is a mutual social motivation that is very powerful, but you only tend to notice it when its gone. After experimenting with a number of different motivators I found that, for me, it boiled down to rhythm. Once I planned and established a daily schedule as a habitual pattern the work easily followed:
Workout/breakfast (8-9)
I found 30 mins a day was the best fit. Enough to get the heart rate and endorphins up, but not so much to make me tired. Think of it as a primer. I do this before looking at my phone or email. Looking will sink this part of the routine.
Work (9-1)
This is always my most productive time. After going through urgent mail I prioritize my first task. I’d say 70% of the real work that I do all day happens here (difficult coding/pitch decks).
Lunch (1-2)
Nap (2-3)
Napping here is very important. Any later it inferred with my sleeping schedule. Forcing a nap here even if I wasn’t tired really brought up my energy the rest of the day.
Work (3-7)
I intentionally plan fun/easier work here (design/planning/email). This tends to be the part of the day hardest to re-start. If the work is fun or easier you get back into the zone.
Dinner (7-8)
Work (8-12)
Oddly, this also tends to be a very productive time for me. Especially with no other calls/emails to distract I get quite a bit of solid work done at night.
At the end of the night wind down by planning the tasks for tomorrow. Generally I block everything out in outlook
Sleep (12-9)
Sleep is the keystone to every day. Everything falls apart without adequate sleep and I won’t sacrifice my sack time for anything short of a catastrophic failure (site is down).
This may look like a lot, but I will take brakes as needed. I found from RescueTime I’m actively productive 8-10 hours a day. That’s about as good as it gets.

Getting on this schedule was challenging for the first couple days, but afterwards the general inertia made it easy to maintain and you almost automatically start each phase.
I have a 3 hour limit on hitting a wall. If I can’t work I just take that ‘block’ off
Breaks are always physical (walking, driving range, ping pong, darts) or sleep. No intellectually stimulating breaks at all. Bodies tend to like to be lazy, so we want to do something that uses 30% of our brain (TV/books/games) rather than 80% (coding /writing). Any opportunity to engage in a simple activity is attractive, but tended to make me less energetic and productive after.
Vacations. I’d generally take every other weekend completely off. No work whatsoever for 2 days. That typically is enough to allow me to reset, recharge and take a quick strategic review then dive back into the trenches. If I’m cycling caffeine intake then these two days will always be complete detox days (no caffeine at all).
Hope some of you find this useful to focus in and get work done!

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