0 Feb 7, 2017

Tips for focusing at the office

  1. Turn off notifications for emails and instant messages on all your devices. Don’t let the dock icon bounce either. The unread count on the dock icon is enough. Look at your e-mail and your messages when there’s a natural break in your work.
  2. Since you’re probably working in an open office environment, you must get some good headphones. I always recommend the Bose QC25 – they have the best noise cancellation; often you don’t even need music to block out noise with those.
  3. Apropos music – listen to genres like chill out, lounge, downtempo, trip-hop. I find music without too many distracting elements help me tune in to the task at hand. I recommend the Chill-out and Blues radioes on Apple Music. In general, music you know well is always good.
  4. Try to introduce an office policy that you don’t disturb co-workers that have headphones on. Headphones means that you send an IM first. It’s a normal thing that you can’t always get an answer to your question instantly.
  5. Stay outside the office. Work in an empty meeting room. Work at home, or maybe in a quiet café with good WiFi.
  6. If you work at home, get a good variable-height desk and chair. Sitting at your kitchen table or in your sofa won’t cut it for the amount of hours you need to spend. You’ll get back aches from sitting at the wrong height.
  7. If you haven’t already, learn how to sit properly. Make sure that you have a good chair. It’s important.
  8. Keep a clean desk. Remove unnecessary things. When you’re done with work, clean your desk completely so you’re ready to start anew without clutter. Make it inviting. You need these things, and only these things: Monitors, wireless keyboard and trackpad/mouse, paper (to jot down thoughts and designs), a couple of pens.
  9. Keep a clean computer. Make sure your dock isn’t messy; keep only the applications you use all the time. Don’t keep a lot of windows open – use Cmd+Alt+H to hide other windows than the active one. Use shortcut keys to quickly arrange windows.
  10. Apropos paper, make it a habit to draw new processes and flows for the code you’re producing, even if you won’t look at it again. Make a flowchart. Draw some boxes and arrows. Use the paper as a to-do list. Whenever you get an idea, make it a habit to write it down immediately.
  11. Kill all meetings. They rob you of precious time. Of course, not all meetings can be killed. Whenever you’re going to propose a meeting, stop it. If you have daily or weekly scheduled meetings, try to stop having them for a month. Find ways to stop having meetings – use your project software (JIRA), IMs – talk to your teammates.
  12. Take pauses as often as you can when there’s natural breaks in your work. Refill your coffee or water, grab a snak, talk to a co-worker.
  13. If you have a problem, don’t spend hours getting nowhere. Don’t spend more than an hour on the same little problem. Just work on another thing instead, and get back to your problem later. Mention it to a co-worker. Often, just telling someone will help you realise the solution – if it didn’t occur to you in the middle of a shower!

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