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Share your methods to measure and improve personal productivity!

Igor Irianto
Vim, Rails, cheesy puns
Updated on ・2 min read

I wanted to see what system you guys have to measure and improve your productivity outside of work. By productivity, I mean everything from self-improvement, contributing to open source, or maintaining side projects or business.

Personal example

Everyday, for 6 days a week, I try to accumulate at least 90 productivity minutes. I define productivity minutes loosely: any time spent reading or writing outside of work.

I use forest app to keep track of time - it is a distraction-free pomodoro app (to be honest, a simple stopwatch can accomplish same thing).

For example, I wake up around 6:30 (or 7 if I'm really tired 😅) and read for 10 minutes. Then around breakfast, I would read some articles for 10-15 minutes and write (usually for dev.to) for 5-30 minutes. Then I'm off to work. During lunch, sometimes I would code for 30 minutes. During my commute, I would listen to audiobooks (thanks, scribd!) for 10-15 minutes each way. After work, in the evening, I would code/ read for 30+ minutes.

The schedule above would yield me a good 100 minutes per day. I usually take Sunday off as my day of rest. I would still read and write, but I would only impose 25 productivity minutes instead of 90.

Problems

Some of the problem I am starting to see with my method:

  1. All minutes are counted equally when not all minutes spent doing different things do not yield equal result. I think the time spent producing things (writing articles, writing code for open source) is more valuable than the time spent reading. I am definitely not undervaluing reading here; I am a HUGE advocate of reading a lot of stuff everyday - I am saying in the long run, psychologically, I would want to spend more time reading all the time because it is easier to read than actually writing and producing things; it takes more effort for me to write code than to read code. I would think, "why not accumulate all my productivity minutes reading if writing takes more effort and counts the same as reading?".

  2. There is a tendency to sacrifice life by wanting to accumulate more minutes everyday. I notice that I would rather spend my evening reading and writing than spending it with my wife (retrospectively, I don't think spending whole evening in front of screen with your spouse is healthy either). It is easy to gravitate doing stuff for yourself than for others.


There you have mine. I am curious to see what you guys do. Don't feel obligated to share every little detail. I would like to hear what you guys do to measure and improve your productivity so we can learn from each other and come up with the solution that is best for each of us!

Discussion (10)

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davidmm1707 profile image
David MM🐍

Productivity is a recurrent topic for me because I'd rather work smarter than harder, and I hate losing time by studying things I don't need, opening tabs I shouldn't (Twitter and Youtube are the worst ones!) and more.

I have read and tried many practices, so I'm going to explain my favourite 3.

Right now I have two daily tasks:

  • Do something for my blog/youtube channel (Write a non-technical post, write the code and the post or make/edit a video. One of the three)

  • Code something (Currently I'm doing my 3rd #100DaysOfCode challenge, learning advanced Python, Flask and advanced Django) for at least 1 hour a day. Normally it ends being 2 hours or more on weekends (More info about the 100DaysofCode challenge here)

So, doing something for my blog/channel + 1h or more of coding. I don't count reading or listening about podcast, even if I do.

What I do

1: Set fixes hours to do tasks
I used to say "I'll do this in one hour, this on another hour, so I can do it at any time". As it is easy to count, it is easy to manage. As it is just 2 hours, I can do it on the late-afternoon. Or why not before having supper? Or after.

And I end doing nothing of it.

So, the way to fix this: Set fixed hours.

Now, everyday at 5 I start doing whatever I need for my blog/youtube channel. Not when "I feel like it". At 5.

The coding starts at 8. Not before X or after Y. At 8.

Instead of playing Tetris with my schedule I have set some hours on it to do things. Not optional (unless some life-threatening thing happens)

2: Track my progress

Get this cards:

Take a pen. Divide it vertically by 7 columns, horizontally by 7 rows.
You have 49 cells: 7 columns that represent the 7 days of the week, 7 rows that represent 7 weeks. Do the same on the other side. Now you have 98 cells. Or 100, if you count the whole side.

Do this for each task you want to do.

Starting Monday, check the first cell (the first day of the first week) after you did that card's task.

If you want to do exercise, read, and code for an hour, check the exercise card after you do exercise, check the read card after you read, and check the 'code for an hour' card after you code for an hour or more.

Keep doing this until you manage to cross all the 49 cells. Then 50th is the whole card.

Then do the same with the other side of the card.

If you don't cross a day, write on that cell why you didn't.

There is a pleasure of crossing one day, a whole week, a whole side of the card with a marker. And by having them near you, you always are reminded to do your tasks.


Those are the methods I use everyday. Sometimes I also use Pomodoro or any other technique, but setting hours on my schedule and having cards reminding me to do the things I have to do, are the two that helped me more.

For the people interested in, I have writen about them (and more) on Fighting Procastination

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iggredible profile image
Igor Irianto Author

This is awesome. I loved it! I do have a daily schedule/ plan using simple markdown. Every morning, I make a simple list

- [] task1
- [] task2
- [] task3

At the end of the day, I plan to have them all crossed

- [x] task1
- [x] task2
- [x] task3

And if there is anything unchecked, that gets rolled over to next day. I want to give your method a try though. I think there is something about checking off physical paper that makes it more effective than checking off tasks virtually.

Thank you for sharing this!

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davidmm1707 profile image
David MM🐍

Yeah, no 'click' can beat crossing a whole card with a black marker :)

Thread Thread
iggredible profile image
Igor Irianto Author

Yup! I still carry pen and paper with me all the time!

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iggredible profile image
Igor Irianto Author

Oh nice!! Old school pencil and paper ftw :)

I always have either: post-it in almost all the rooms in my house, notebook wallet (midori is my top-choice for EDC) so I always have something to jot down when I am in the house/ outside.

In addition, I also do my planning/ scheduling on computer using a simple markdown and sync it with dropbox. I also post it on my github (private) project just to be extra safe. I can't start my day without planning it in the morning. Glad to see I am not the only one here!

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kirzlobster profile image
Kir Zlobster

Productivity can also be achieved by self-motivation. Motivation is the word derived from the word 'motive' which means needs, desires, wants or drives within the individuals. It is the process of stimulating people to actions to accomplish the goals. In the work goal context the psychological factors stimulating the people's behaviour can be - desire for mone,success. I couldn’t start motivating myself for a long time. I just procrastinated things in my life. Consequently, I ruined many of my school days and then I srewed with my job. Thanks to the internet where I found many tips that helped me motivate myself and finally do things I wanted and I had to do.
Moreover, I found an amazing site that helps you improve yourself and gets you motivated by completing challenges.
Really interesting site with a great challenges verity—makeBetter.me

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iggredible profile image
Igor Irianto Author

I can relate with motivational issue. There was a year when I told myself I would do X or do Y by the end of year. I ended up not doing it because of some lame excuses. I have also wasted few years of my college years and looking back, those become my motivation to not waste time anymore.

I checked the website earlier, it is awesome. Thanks for sharing!

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lloricode profile image
Lloric Mayuga Garcia

Hi, I just follow all repository I have use in every project, and it always notify me on email, so we can track what is happening if there's a deprecated.

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iggredible profile image
Igor Irianto Author

Interesting, that's a good idea! Need to work on setting up notification so I don't have to deal with deprecated libs haha! Some of my old repos/ projects have a like million warnings...