My best advice to myself

Sometimes, like Alice in Wonderland, I give myself very good advice. Unlike Alice, though, I occasionally take it. The very best advice I think I have given on this blog is this:

Always do one more thing. Before you turn in at the end of the day, when you think you are tired out and done with work, write a blog post, edit the CSS on one page, answer an email. Those things will add up.

Several people have told me they have taken that to heart and it has helped them be noticeably more productive.  Although I must admit  that my sister told me that she was convinced I was an incurable workaholic and she was hoping for advice more along the lines of, when you think you are tired, take a nap, have a glass of wine and watch TV with your husband.

Well, first of all, one can simultaneously have a glass of wine and answer email, edit CSS or write a blog.  However, I have to say, this “one more thing” advice is something that I really do make a point to do every night unless I am just completely exhausted. It’s the intellectual equivalent of what I wrote about on my other blog, “How to lose 60 pounds with barely trying”  – no, it’s not a joke. I just pointed out that walking a few flights of stairs every day, walking to the store instead of driving, walking around the building while on the phone – all of that added up for 30 years is the difference between being 60 pounds overweight or not.

Similarly, an average of an extra 20 minutes a night adds up to over 2 1/2 work-weeks each year. Often, people ask me how I get so much done – well, my year has 54.5 weeks in it.

Julia and Mochi the dog asleep

Related to this are two other pieces of good advice I give myself – know when you are most effective and get enough sleep.

Notice the examples I gave above didn’t include to de-bug a program or work on design. One of the reasons I want to knock out a few things right before bed is so that the next day I have a longer uninterrupted block of time to focus on whatever is most important. I don’t know of anyone who is most effective when they are tired. I also cannot believe that there is anyone who isn’t negatively affected by being sleep-deprived. If I’m tired during the day, I lay down and take a nap.

I am SO not a morning person. I don’t do 8 a.m. meetings. It is miserable for me and unproductive for whoever I am supposed to meet because my brain is barely functioning. I wake up slowly, usually with a lot of moaning and a cup of coffee or two. This is my last good bit of advice I take from myself – make a conscious effort to learn every day. I usually have my iPad or a book under my bed and first thing in the morning after The Invisible Developer brings me a cup of coffee, I read a chapter or two. I’ve read Javascript: The Definitive Guide twice, Eloquent JavaScript and Javascript, the good parts all the same way – a chapter or so in the morning before I got out of bed.

That’s it – knock out a few non-essential but good to do things before turning in, learn something every day, get enough sleep, and give yourself a substantial block of time during whatever is the most productive part of the day for you to do whatever is most important.

These seem simple, obvious ways to be more effective, but the irony of it is that for me personally it would be impossible to implement this advice in a 9 to 5 job.

Seriously, this is something I have always wondered about with those people who believe they are somehow morally superior because they get out of bed at 5 a.m. , arrive at the office at 8 and work until 5 and that people like me are lazy.

I normally work around 8 – 12 hours a day , by which I mean actual work, not lunch hour, not on Facebook, not on the phone with my mom/ friend/ real estate agent. As a former industrial engineer, I know that 8-12 “standard hours” , that is absolutely on task , is a kick-ass performance.

So, why do some people believe that their performance is “better” because it occurred during specific hours? (Obviously, I’m not counting people who are sales clerks or something where they need to be available to the public at convenient hours. ) If I’m writing a program, what the hell difference does it make if I do it at 1 pm or 1 am ? Seriously, I’m asking this because I’ve wondered about the rationale of bosses over the years – not mine, thank God, but other people’s – who seem convinced that there is a difference.

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  1. Great idea to learn something everyday. It allows you to take little bites of subjects.

    I don’t know why bosses require work at certain times of the day … I’m sure it traces back to Henry Ford somehow. 😉

    Missed you at #SASGF14.

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