In the past three hours I have
- Caught up with my Twitter feed
- Looked into food waste percentage by country (it's complicated)
- Organized a new Meetup for my Remote Workers Lunch Hour
- Started a technical design document for work
- Caught up on work chatter
- Worked through 1/3 of the FastAPI user guide
- Read up on typing and type hints new to Python 3.6+ (and to me)
- Looked up a bunch of restaurants and hotels in Amsterdam to recommend to a friend
- Had breakfast
- Gotten dressed
- Caught up on issue comments for one of my open source projects
- Did a little OSM mapping
- Looked into ski gear sales
- Read up on ski boot sizing and other considerations when choosing boots, such as the flex index)
- Read a couple articles in last weekend's paper
- Updated the household calendar with upcoming events and trips
- Written this blog post (in progress)
And I probably forgot a few things. It looks crazy but I have come to accept that productivity comes to me in huge peaks (and troughs).
No, that's not completely accurate. I've accepted the peaks, but not the troughs. When I'm riding a productivity peak, I tackle 4, 5 things at a time, switching between them quickly. My brain is buzzing! I feel great.
But inevitably I hit a productivity trough. I feel bad because I am not getting anything done, and force myself to keep working even though deep down, I know that I won't accomplish anything. That's wasted time that I should use on recharging: going for a hike, taking a nap, mowing the lawn, whatever does not require my brain to be on, and ideally something that brings me joy. (Mowing the lawn is really not a great example.) Not just that, it actually detrimental to my mental health, because I get frustrated by the time I spend accomplishing nothing and not appreciating that I should be making different choices.
Here's a few things I am considering doing to improve how I handle productivity troughs:
- Start tracking these productivity peaks: what time of day / day of week do they tend to occur? How frequently? How long do they last?
- Keep lists, like the one above, that remind me how much I have actually accomplished
- Force myself to take a break every 45 minutes (or so) and check in with myself. Am I going to fast? Am I getting frustrated? Am I spending my time the way I should be? (I have done things like the Pomodoro method before, but have always found it hard to stick to the rigid schedule of 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off, precisely because of these peaks, when I just want to keep going, but also the troughs, when I feel like I don't deserve a break.)
- Reconsider my caffeine intake. I don't drink huge amounts of coffee, but I do wonder how it affects this.
Fundamentally, I don't see this as a "problem" that needs to be "solved" in the sense that I want these productivity peaks and troughs to go away. I am sure there is medication I could take that would do that. But that would be messing with who I am; not something that sounds particularly appealing. It is something I want to get a better handle on, because my mental health suffers from my inability to recognize the peaks and troughs and making the right decisions in the moment.