There are millions of productivity hacks and task management systems, but what I find really helpful to reflect on a couple times a year are boundaries. What usually forces me to reflect on it is some kind of transition between less active and more active times of the year. For example, coming back from holiday break and finding myself completely overwhelmed and unorganized by the middle of January.
We use Google Workspace at Stripe, so I’ve found using Google Tasks the most helpful task management tool for a number of reasons. However, it’s often not the tools that cause me to feel overwhelmed, but rather I have usually allowed myself to drift outside of my mental productivity lanes. Much like bounds on a metrics graph, personal boundaries can help me self-identify that productivity is about to head in the wrong direction.
There are a handful of behaviors that help me personally:
* Am I getting daily exercise? This is a frequent source of stress relief for me, in addition to contributing to my overall energy & focus levels.
* Am I spending quality time with my family? If I’m doing work outside of normal hours or I’m physically present but mentally checked out, things aren’t in the right direction.
* Am I planning my day in advance? I spend a lot of time adding things to my todo list, but if I’m not regularly curating it and figuring out what I’m going to realistically get done the next day, then nothing actually gets done.
* Am I declining meetings? Hear me out. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy spending time with my coworkers or I have some imaginary line of things that are or aren’t worth my time. Rather, my todo list is so full and my schedule is so packed, that if I’m not declining at least a couple events a week, I’m absolutely not getting long stretches of focused time to actually get things done. “Cheese calendars” (30 minute gaps between meetings randomly throughout the day) are absolute productivity killers for getting heads down time.
* Am I drinking enough water? Like a lot of people, I tend to be super focused when I’m working on my computer and I forget to do basic things. Drinking water obviously makes me feel better, but it also prevents me from overeating when I do finally come up for air.
* Am I breathing? This is another basic thing I forget to do when I’m locked into work and it even has a term – “email apnea”.
Being mindful of these bounds during times of transition are helpful for me to recenter myself and stay in my productivity lane. What are yours?