Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Improving daily efficiency

While at Kellogg, I've focused on improving my daily efficiency. I figure this is a great time to experiment with and ingrain different work habits because grad school can be as intense as working, and I'm sure it will become harder to do so once I'm back in the real world.  Furthermore, becoming as efficient as possible will be key to realizing better life balance in the future.

Here are some things that have worked for me.
  1. Getting rid of my TV - I used to have a glorious 65" HD TV that I spent many fond hours with, but that was the problem. Spending hours watching TV is too easy to do, and it keeps me from truly focusing on anything else. So, I got rid of the TV before coming to Kellogg. Not having a TV has worked out so well that I've vowed to not get another one for as long as possible.
  2. Limiting myself to one daily trip to Kellogg - I live about a mile away from Jacobs, so it takes me 30 minutes round-trip to walk to school. This hurts whenever I have a morning and evening class, because I end up spending 12+ hours at Jacobs, but at least I can use that time to do HW.
  3. Combining trips into one daily "To Do" trip - In the winter time, it is a chore to suit up with the layers necessary to stay warm only to then remove all of those layers when I get somewhere.
  4. Prepping meals at home as often as possible - Saves me trips to go pick up food.
  5. Wall of Assignments - gives me a quick way to see when assignments are due and to decide what to work on.
  6. Scheduling out blocks of time for specific activities - I'm still not doing this diligently, but whenever I do, it seriously cuts down on the time I waste in between things. If I don't have an idea of what I'm going to work on after I finish something, I'm more likely to get sucked into the internet, or to start playing guitar, etc.
  7. Trying to schedule every meeting in an assigned, contiguous block of time - If meetings are scheduled sporadically throughout the day, then I've chopped up my time to work on things into small chunks making it harder to make meaningful progress on anything. Then there's the switching cost associated with interruptions, like getting ready for a meeting, and that time tends to add up quickly. Furthermore, those transitions are when I have a higher chance of getting distracted.
  8. Disabling pop-up notifications on the laptop - I used to get a lot of pop-up notifications on the Mac, and I always stopped what I was doing to address those interruptions (particularly emails, which you get a ton of in school). That just kills my concentration and results in more switching costs.
  9. Hiding the dock on the Mac - If I don't hide it, then I tend to check it often to see if I've gotten new emails, allowing myself to stop whatever I'm doing to read those emails.
  10. Disabling the blinking notification light on my cell phone - Same as above but for both emails and text messages.
A lot of my changes tend to focus on minimizing both the number of and opportunity for interruptions throughout the day. I've become convinced that multitasking leads to crappy work, and I benefit from having long, uninterrupted stretches of time to focus on things.

The TED talk below by Jason Fried covers some similar ground. I finally got around to reading his book, Rework, which is a pretty short read with some ideas that are both interesting and common-sensical on getting things done. Definitely worth the read in my opinion. And it's only $9 on the Kindle.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent post Orlando! One thing I always struggle with is interruptions - email, twitter, checking facebook in case someone posted something about me.Trying, but turning all this stuff off is hard!

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