Stay Awake, Stay Alert, Stay Focused
We’ve been a little busy over here at V-CAF. Tight deadlines, issues to fix and increasing demands have been taking their toll for the past few weeks!
Anyways, being that we espouse the virtues of working smart without having to resort to caffeine, I thought I’d share some of the techniques and processes that proved to be invaluable .
In a relatively short amount of time, we accomplished a fair amount (if I may say so myself), and I hope that you’ll find what we’ve done inspirational and more importantly, useful to you.
Since the new year I’ve had a ton of work that I’ve been committed to. We had decided to make some major changes to our app V-CAF, which included a new version compatible with macOS desktop and laptops.
Unfortunately at the same time we also had personal commitments that couldn’t be ignored, and would take up a great deal of our time.
My head felt like it was going to explode and at the time I had no idea how we could honour all those commitments.
Decline in Standards
A lot of people faced with tight deadlines tend to power through and force themselves to achieve their goals through thick and thin.
I’ve done this in the past, and although I met most of the goals, I knew that it wasn’t my best work, leaving me feeling flat and exhausted.
Working like this once in a while doesn’t do too much harm, but if it starts to become a regular occurrence both the quality of your work and temperament can suffer.
So, how did we get through our recent busy spell? By using some of the techniques that I’ve written about in the past, and using some new combinations.
- Planning Work Ahead of Time
Before diving straight into the tasks, we planned the order and importance of work that needed to be done. This way we had a clear view of what work should be done and a clear indication of what work had been done so that we could visibly track our progress. Tools such as Kanban or Jira are good for tracking your progress. (both are primarily aimed at software development, but can be adapted to any project or task)
- Breaking Down Tasks Into 20-25 min Blocks
Instead of trying to complete everything at once, divide and conquer. Each of the major tasks were broken into smaller sub parts, which had the result of helping us to focus on one specific issue at a time. This helped us to work faster and improve quality. The Pomodoro technique worked wonderfully here – The Pomodoro Tracker — A useful tool for time management based on Pomodoro Technique.!
- Take A Break When Tired
It can be hard to stop when you are tired, especially when a deadline approaches. Also most people become so focussed on their work that they don’t realise how tired they are, but working whilst tired leads to an increase in the probability that the quality of your work will diminish. V-CAF, an Apple Watch app, informs you when your alertness decreases and is ideal for helping you stay alert and focused.
- Get Enough Sleep
This is the master key to all the other techniques. I don’t know about you, but when I have tight deadlines I tend to work longer hours and cut into my down time, which in turn cuts into my sleep time. Again, once in a while is okay, but constantly working like this for a week can really have a detrimental effect on your productivity.
Prioritise your sleep. Make time for it and get enough good quality sleep. If you are finding it difficult to sleep (due to stress for example), then try exercising at some point during the day for 30 minutes or more. Exercise has been proven to improve the quality of your sleep almost immediately! Just make sure you don’t exercise within two hours before you plan to go to bed.
These are the main techniques that I used and they worked well. Not listed are the new combinations that we tried and got very positive results from.
As an example, one of our tasks was to create V-CAF Desktop. We had built desktop applications for other platforms, but this was our first for macOS.
To help us achieve this goal we planned the tasks that would get us to our desired result, and stuck to using V-CAF the watchOS app to keep us from working whilst being overtired. In addition we added another task that was dependant on completing the desktop app which involved using V-CAF desktop to complete the video editing and sourcing tasks.
This allowed for us to test the desktop app in the real world whilst completing another of our tasks. A classic “Two birds, one stone” situation, that helped us boost both our productivity and quality.
Increasing your productivity, focus and wakefulness doesn’t rely on any one special secret technique, but the willingness to experiment and find what works for you.
Before you start your next deadline or goal plan which techniques you’ll try.
Finally, post your tips and the techniques in the comments so that we and other readers can try them out too!