ALM #060: Your Personal Productivity System
The Art of Productivity for Engineering Managers
📖 Read Time: 5 minutes
Independent of how busy and stressful you are, you still hold the last word regarding self-development.
And today, I'm going to show you some of my favourite Productivity tricks and how I expand each.
By improving your daily life, you'll eventually reach Nirvana, or at least to a place where you'll feel like you dominated your day and accomplished what you set out to.
But don't be fooled. This is not a linear or straightforward journey. It will require you to be true to yourself and keep fighting to deliver results consistently. At the end of the day, it will make you a better professional and a much stronger Engineering Manager.
Success isn't about getting more done; it's about having more fun. If you're having fun, productivity takes care of itself.
- Ali Abdaal -
This quote is of the utmost importance. This path we're travelling can't be exclusively filled with pain and sacrifice. You need to find joy in the journey because if you enjoy the little things, you will have the strength to withstand the inevitable pain that the road holds ahead.
Building your own productivity system allows you to become a more centred professional that holds a:
Higher delivery rate
An overall sense of accomplishment
So here are 3 main pillars that serve as the foundation of my productivity system.
1 - Calendar
Mastering your calendar is an art. Sometimes I feel like an artist. Most times, I feel like a starving artist 😝
There are 3 main items that I focus on with my calendar:
Parkinson's Law states that the more time we have to complete a task, the longer it will take.
What I've learnt throughout the years is that if I block the time I want to devote to specific tasks, it will:
Know exactly when I need to work on something
Help me focus on what I need to achieve
Limit the amount of time I have to accomplish that task.
Knowing when to do a task and how much time I have to do it is an excellent way of organising my day.
One of the most simple but impactful changes I've made to my calendar was introducing colours to my events.
There are a couple of reasons why it was so effective:
It made my calendar look so pweeeeety
It helps me very quickly have an overview of how critical my day is.
Right now, I'm using the following colours:
🔵 Default colour
🔴 Important Meetings
🟢 External Meetings
🟠 Leadership Forums
I tend to change the colour scheme slightly every 6 months to keep me on my feet.
I go through my calendar daily and try to collapse meetings together. The last thing I want is a day filled with gaps and odd meetings that prevent me from concentrating on a single task.
I send messages to every organiser of the meetings I want to change and plead my case. More often than not, I manage to change the meetings and place them together.
Alongside time blocking and colour coding, it helps me build my day.
For example, I try every day to concentrate on my 1:1s until the beginning of the afternoon. In the same way, I devote time to tasks that require high focus in the morning.
Customising my daily calendar is an important part of my day that inevitably maximises my productivity.
2 - Focus
A critical part of my day is the ability to focus almost on command.
This is something that I developed with training, experimenting and finding what truly works for me.
Everyone is different, and I'm sure what works for me might not work for you.
Many issues ago, I mentioned Binaural Beats and how they helped me focus.
To this day, I still find it interesting that those sounds lead to so much concentration.
As an alternative to Binaural Beats, I often listen to Hans Zimmer tracks. They also work for me, but not as effectively.
After many years of fighting against meditation and struggling every time I tried it, I started doing it recurrently about 2 months ago.
I got to a point where it was becoming tough for me to centre and deal with many of the pressures from work.
It felt like I stopped caring for myself and was always in a constant state of anxiety.
So I turned to meditation as an attempt to recenter.
I'm still learning to meditate, but every time I finish a 10-minute session, I feel like my feet add weight to the ground, heavy, focused, and centred.
Right now, I'm doing a session every day in the morning. It's proven to be a game-changer.
My secret weapon is simple.
If I have a difficult task that needs me to go into the zone, 100% focus, there is only one answer: a Lord of the Rings and a Harry Potter marathon.
I lost count of how many times I saw these films, but I know that I don't need to look at the screen since I know the scenes by heart and can almost recite them.
I can't really explain why this works, but the fact of the matter is that it does.
I'm sure you'll have your own set of films, tv shows, albums, songs, etc, that simply bring the best out of you.
Don't simply cross them off the list because it's unconventional.
If it works for you, it works. Period.
3 - Journal
Finally, the piece of resistance.
I've tried morning journals, late-night journals, 5-minute journals, bullet journals, etc.
Right now, I can confess that I don't journal every single day. Still, some days, when I feel absolutely overwhelmed with information, I pick up a pen.
On those days, I sit down and write and write and write.
I've learnt about this method, that you just start writing what's on your mind and then, like water, you try to direct it to a certain location. This great exercise will leave you much lighter and with an interesting outcome in the paper.
I often correlate the chaos inside my mind with masses of water too strong to control. They move at their own pace, and I hold on and go on the ride.
This exercise helps me control that water mass.
These processes and experiments led me to a place where I got to know myself better and eventually helped me optimise my ways.
Going back to the quote from the beginning, this only work because I genuinely enjoy trying these systems, playing around with how I deal with problems and optimising my responses. The journey is the fun part of it.
If I were to describe everything that I do, occasionally try, and above all fail, the list would be massive and would contain:
5 AM wake up
The more I think of productivity, mainly how I apply it to my day-to-day, is very connected with my mental health and how I try to improve it. Tackling my daily problems gives me a sense of control, making me sleep better and increasing my overall sense of daily joy.
These are some of the techniques that I use.
I would love to hear about what you're doing to improve your daily lives.
Here are a couple of other topics you might be interested in:
If you're not finding value in this newsletter, please consider unsubscribing. There are no hard feelings, and I appreciate your part in my journey. Perhaps in the future, we'll meet again!
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Have an incredible week! 💪🏼
Parada 👊🏼 A Leader's Mindset