The most frequent challenge I encountered on a daily basis as an engineer was the constant interruption, pulling me away from deep work. The more senior I got on the ladder the more “pings” I received. Here are 3 strategies that helped me tame the chaos and be “reasonably” responsive but extremely effective with my time.
Pair time-blocking with notification pausing for deep work
First 30 mins of the work day was reserved for todo list taming, which involved tackling the task right away or scheduling time for it on the calendar. Time-blocking was only effective when paired with notification pausing. 30min time-blocking has been sufficient for majority of my tasks and the occasional 1hr block was needed to write or revise technical documents or performance review documents.
Stay hyper focused by using thought dumps
When focused on a task, say during the time-blocked period, I rarely got through it without getting distracted. I would catch myself coming up with a new “brilliant” idea. My trick to beat this was to have a document open for dumping thoughts and ideas. This sometimes resulted in productive ideas for hackathons, trying out the latest “productivity hack” or remained just a thought log. This thought dump and switch back strategy worked wonders to return to the task at hand with hyper focus.
Create an office hour for yourself to manage interruptions
I utilized multiple time blocks during the workday for code reviews. As pointed out in a previous post, this system ensured I am reviewing code as frequently as possible. Beyond code reviews pings the other bucket of interruptions was technical questions like - how to do X or evaluate Y or need a decision on Z. I setup a soft “office hour” block on my calendar, which was not meant for deep work but reserved for these kind of requests, for example, a 12.30-1.30pm block and a 5-6pm block. My response to these requests was “I have time at 12.30-1.30pm or 5-6pm if you would like to chat about this live”. This helped me stay on top of my goals without drowning in a sea of meetings.
Hope you find these strategies valuable in your quest to stay super productive.