How to Be Productive in a World of Likes, Tweets, and DMs

TL;DR: Do focused work rather than shallow work. Practice routines and rituals so you could get into the habit of being productive. Ironically, workplaces are some of the most distracting, noisy places for professionals today.1 Distractions and interruptions happen all the time: coworkers send emails and Slack messages your way literally 9-5. Your Twitter and Facebook apps scream for attention. Then you work at an open-office, people stop by and say hello, ask you questions, and pull you into meetings you hardly find useful and necessary. It’s so difficult to get things done because of non-important work getting in your way. And this is a problem. You are obviously less likely to perform as well as you should if you are constantly distracted at work. I used to have this concern too when I was working at IBM and Walmart. I was frustrated by the amount of distraction happening around me. Today, I run a startup, and I can do more work than I did for those two companies, but I am less stressed, and for sure I get more done (note here that doing work doesn’t necessarily equate to getting things done). And I credit developing a system to do things for this. As a founder, from building products, developing go-to-market channels, to writing this very blog post, I am constantly involved in a wide variety of tasks daily. Without a systematic approach to managing tasks and to-dos, I can’t even imagine how I will be free from distractions and noises and still be able to get 10,000 things done while producing high-quality results. And focus is key, in this very systematic approach. It’s the start of it all. No productivity hack will deliver unless you can focus. The key is to secure enough ‘focus time’ every day For creative workers like us, that is, designers, product managers, and developers (and more)2, our work is hard. Our kind of work requires us to solve incredibly challenging problems. And to deliver on those, you have to secure enough of your highly-focused, undistracted, almost-selfishly interruption-free time every day to excel at your craft. “Deep work is the valuable work, the work we get paid to do. It’s not email, or messaging, or meetings. It’s thinking work; it’s the kind of work you need to do to solve hard problems, to become a master at your craft, etc.3” – D. Keith Robinson, Lead Product Designer at Atlassian And the reality is that it’s challenging to practice focused work when you have many noises coming your way. So instead of trying to work more to create enough time for creative work, I suggest you work backward: of the hours you intend to work daily, reserve the time you will be active on Slack and replying to emails. And work on more intellectually intriguing tasks for the rest of the day. And during the ‘focus time,’ quit all unnecessary apps and put your phone down with Do Not Disturb mode on. When you focus, make sure you are at a place where your coworkers don’t interrupt you (empty conference rooms, coffee shops, etc.). You’ll start to realize you could get a lot more things done in a shorter time. “Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output.4“– Cal Newport Side-tip 1: Decide amongst your team when you’ll do deep work At Pixelic, we have decided to conduct all meetings within a four-hour time block, two hours in the morning and two hours later in the day….

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