A programmer’s guide to being productive everyday

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I need lists to help me stay productive each day.  I’m sure this isn’t unique to me or the industry but without a list there are some days where I feel too distracted or disoriented.  Sometimes even with a list of things I get distracted! Here are some tools that I started using to help me become more productive everyday.

Write down what you’re going to accomplish

If this is your first list, you will be writing down everything you can think of that you want to do.  That is okay! Just remember that each day you should write down what you will accomplish in that day.  My current list shows a few basic things:

  1. Project Name
  2. Task
    1. Sometimes description or sub-tasks
  3. Pomodoro Estimate
  4. Pomodoro Actual

I’m old fashioned so I just write it all down on paper.  It works best for me because it is tangible and holds me accountable.  Do what works best for you.  The important thing: write down what you will accomplish.

Leverage The Pomodoro Technique to keep you on track

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple task management hack for your brain.  They explain it best with their video.  TL;DR: Each task is estimated in 25 minute “pomodoros” that give you a five or ten minute break in between.  For a timer I just use http://tomato-timer.com/.

What helped me get started was starting the timer and having 25 minutes of uninterrupted work.  This means ignoring texts, reddit, Facebook, phone calls, people by your desk, etc.  It was extremely hard for me to avoid these distractions at first but it gets easier.  Your first uninterrupted pomodoro will seem like you can conquer the world.  Slow down though, we are only scheduling daily tasks for now ;).

Estimate your tasks and track the actual time it takes

This is pretty important.  You need to be able to see why things take longer so you can better estimate tasks in the future.  Starting out I estimated in minutes or hours, which works, but it doesn’t mesh to well with our technique we are using.  I started estimating in pomodoros now and find myself trying to beat how many pomodoros I can complete in a day. For example: this current blog entry I estimated to write in one pomodoro.

Well Interwebs, how do you stay productive?

References you might find useful:

PS: Blog entry written in one pomodoro 😉