I always had a problem with being distracted. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Messages, even Spotify, have been, honestly, killing my productivity. Back in the days, when I focused the majority of my time at development, this was less of an obstacle. I developed this multi-threaded mind (sort of) where I focused on coding and when I hit compile, I was able to quickly focus on Twitter. Now, as I focus on different tasks, this is killing me.
Since I started working with Zeppelin, I focus much more on "marketing" tasks, although in all fairness, in a startup, tasks a single person performs are rarely limited to one "department". Anyway, these tasks require a longer attention span. For example, writing a blog post, preparing emails to send out to customers we just started letting in (have you signed-up yet, at http://zeppelin.co), preparing for the presentation we have to give at Demo Day etc.
However, lately, I have noticed I try to switch between (at least) two tasks, which often means I do not finish one of them. I was convinced it is a tool problem. If I only had a single place to write down my tasks, I would not switch between them.
So I tried a couple of them. I used TeuxDeux a while ago. It worked OK, but there were things missing, like meetings. I tried WunderList, but didn't like it. Then I tried SandGlaz, which was probably the closest to what I wanted in a long time. It allowed me to add due dates (big issue!) and prioritise. And then, Davorin showed me Flow. I loved it. It was the first tool that allowed me to organise my tasks on a calendar (huge!) and export that calendar to Google Calendar (and sync with my phone). We had over 70 meetings in the first three weeks of TechStars, and before Davorin and I returned back home for the Holidays, meetings were still a very frequent occurrence. I don't want this post to turn into a Flow advertisement, but it's awesome. Check it out.
However, the biggest revelation came one day. I had enough. I wanted to actually do stuff. So I shut off Twitter, I shut off Skype… I left Messages running, but was not available. Guess what? I did everything I had planned for that day.
So, what do I suggest:
- Plan out all the tasks on a daily basis
- Schedule a time for work (e.g. 9 hours, not whole day)
- Accept that not 100% of your day will be productive
- Schedule time for Skype and all other distractions
- Important: Schedule time for responding to email
- Uu, a gold fish!
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