Productivity: think of your environment

Open up the App Store on your phone or tablet, you'll find a plethora of apps all designed to help us be more productive. With a degree of irony that I hope is not lost on them, Trello particularly loves to distract me with regular emails suggesting how I can be more productive. Even the humble "Hello World" has now been replaced with the To-Do app as the new standard of demonstrating yet another new JavaScript framework. We seemed to be obsessed with it in this industry.

With getting accustomed to our new office, more and more of our colleagues working remotely and needing to work the odd day from home myself sometimes, I've been thinking about staying productive in different environments.

Hopefully everybody recognises that sitting down and saying "OK, now I'm going to be productive for the next X hours" just won't work. Solutions to problems and ideas often come at unexpected times, otherwise known as the "shower" eureka moment. Maybe we should be thinking about what types of work lend themselves to certain environments.

For the majority of time, I find myself in one of three environments:

  1. Unstable. The office can often be like this, or even working from home or a cafe. Frequent interruptions, distractions, phone calls and lots of people and activity in an open-plan area. I've found checking off to-do list items that don't require much thought is most effective. It helps if you've already the pre-work of breaking the tasks down so you don't have to process too much (or too little) information.

  2. Stable. Surrounded by books and information, all the right tools and space to be creative. This is better suited to problem solving, brain-storming and planning.

  3. Travelling between 1) and 2)

As a developer I've found I need to get a balance. Instead of asking myself "what am I going to do", I ask "what can I do". Recognising I can't just sit hunched over keyboard and expect to consistently churn out good code. Often I've found my best code has come from being nowhere near a keyboard during a long walk, as far away from a computer as possible.