Measuring my productivity

I’m always for looking for new ways to get more things done, and figure out the kind of work I enjoy doing the most. Just before setting off for Seattle a couple of weeks ago I read a (guest) blog post by Cal Newport:

Time management: How an MIT postdoc writes 3 books, a PhD defense, and 6+ peer-reviewed papers — and finishes by 5:30pm

Having read this I went over to Cal’s own blog and saved a load of content onto Instapaper to read on the flight. Needless to say I highly recommend taking a read, and start with the section ‘Patterns of Success for the Working World’:

The part that interested me most from the guest blog post was the story of Jim Collins (who’s books are great), keeping a stop watch on hand and monitoring how he spends his day. I often feel as though I struggle with focusing on the important stuff and so decided I’d do this over a week. The results were quite interesting. Creative work for me was programming – building new things…Communication was email and Skype, and admin was any other type of day to day work.

Creative Communication Admin
Monday 64% 16%
Tuesday 26% 25% 23%
Wednesday 65% 13%
Thursday 78% 14%
Friday 0% 25% 53%

First of all – in my case at least, having a stop watch running increased the amount of time I could focus. When I started working on the creative stuff, I started the stopwatch and closed Outlook, Skype and Yammer. The average time I was able to focus was around 60 minutes which I’m chuffed with, the longest being 90 mins. I’m hoping Cal is right and with training focus can be improved and lengthened as I’ve been able to see a big difference in what I can produce with being able to focus for 60 minutes each time.

Tuesday and Friday were interesting days. Tuesday is when we have out management team meeting in the morning (over Skype). After doing that first thing in the morning took up time, but then I also struggled to switch to the more creative work. Friday was a bit of a catch up day, with some admin work that needed to be done to the web site. I think I’m going to try and keep admin stuff batched together and attack it on one day rather than do a bit each day. Friday seems a good day to me.

Having the stopwatch running while doing email and Skype was also really interesting. It made me focus on getting the job of answering emails done, and then closing Outlook – and I decided to only log into Skype during certain, short periods of the day. This helped minimise  distractions when trying to focus on other stuff.

So am I going to keep the stopwatch running in future weeks? Definitely! This week has been one of the most productive weeks I can remember in a long time and also the most enjoyable. I can’t wait to see the results next week.

One thought on “Measuring my productivity”

  1. Ah, the stopwatch post 🙂 I will definitive read the references, but I will stick to RescueTime – passive analyzing works for me right now.


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