Productivity in the Workplace (and at home): Stressful Productivity
I was recently interviewed by the Juice on ways that I stay productive at work. I thought that I would write a short series on my particular methods of productivity. This is more of a description of how my system works, there will be very little technology mentioned. If there is interest, I could write a followup for the specific techniques that I use, however, I suspect that such information would be less useful to others than the general overview that follows in this series.
[flickr]photo:303331939(small)[/flickr]In the beginning someone (they fail to claim responsibility) created home and work.
And the work was without structure, and void of purpose; and chaos was upon the life of the home.
And someone said (again, no record as to whom) “Let there be tasks”: and there were tasks.
Thus, did I experience life after college. In my first professional job, I thought I knew how to work. Until that point, “work” consisted of going to a place and waiting for someone to need help. Then, I would either help them or explain why I could not. Really, it was the same model whatever I did:
- Food Service (wait for customer to give me an order and then give me money)
- Book Sales / Retail (wait for customer to require assistance choosing a book or checking out, otherwise straighten and restock)
- Helpdesk (wait for student or employee to need help with a problem, otherwise play with technology and surf the net)
In other words, the model was “Do A until B occurs. Once B occurs, deal with B. When B resolved, go back to doing A.”
Real life turned out to be a tad more complex. I had a boss for whom I had to make more money than he was paying me. I had numerous things that needed to be done, and I had crises that I had to resolve. In my first year, I had the following responsibilities:
- Update web site, whether or not any of my fellow employees or boss gave me any content to post.
- Create a LAN and network all our workstations together.
- Research, learn, and implement two ISDN lines.
- Build a Linux-based appliance to process data and securely deliver documents to our clients’ customers’ customers.
- Learn Perl and write CGI code to handle the above.
- Write processing scripts to manage different data formats.
- Be the low person on the totem pole and deal with anything they didn’t want to do.
- Receive phone calls from irate clients and attempt to resolve their issues.
Of course, I handled conflicting priorities in the time-honored tradition of the entry-level professional — I worked late.
Sometimes, I worked REALLY late.
Once I remember working 96 hours straight. (By the way, Cisco tech support is very helpful, even if you have to bounce between international call centers as the night wears on.)
But I digress.
That made me a very good programmer. I could now be unproductive the right way.
As things went on, the requirements piled up, and I had to be responsible for system architecture, security analysis and correction, system administration, etc. I wound out building my own Linux distribution, guiding development policy (jointly with another), and generally being a rocking tech geek.
Then I changed jobs.
When people change jobs, there is generally a period where you get up to speed. You generally don’t have pre-existing assignments, and you actually have the time to think. After the massively stressful point where I was doing everything that my former job entailed AND getting certifications on my own AND getting a new job, I needed the downtime, so I sat and thought.
I realized that I needed something to keep my bright and shiny new job from rusting out and falling apart like my old job had. I needed a system. (queue dramatic music here)
As I’ve always been a bit of a bookish person, I headed to my local Borders and looked for the book. You know the one, it’s about two feet tall, about six inches thick, has a black leather cover and very yellowed parchment pages. It rests on a pedestal in the middle of your library and is always opened to the page that has the exact information that you need, inscribed in spidery handwriting with reference notes in the margin.
Borders doesn’t carry that one.
What I did find, however, was Getting Things Done by David Allen. While it was obviously a far cry from an ancient tome containing all the knowledge in the universe, it was, however, $15.00. I decided to risk it.
Thus started my journey on the path of stress free productivity.
- Do you have a productivity system?
- Do your employees?
- Should they?