Have you ever noticed that you cannot remember what happened during the working week? I did and it was frustrating. I felt like all the days from the working week were blurred into one. And one day I decided to fix it.
I started remembering my university days. They were difficult, fun, and sometimes scary, but never boring. I don’t want to say that I clearly remember every day at university, but it was a time when my brain was happy. And the reason for this is very simple - our brains need exercise.
When we study we have a lot of new information to process. Every time we travel, we are happy just because our mind has to work - new places give our brains a huge amount of information to process. But constant traveling or studying is not always possible - we need to work, and at work we need to be as productive as possible. So what can you do to keep your mind fit and stay productive?
For me productivity is more than just being efficient. It’s a state of mind when I can fully utilise the potential of my brain. The state when I can easily focus on the problem, zoom in and zoom out of the context to find the best solution. The ability to organise my time and avoid stress. And the best reward and proof of being productive is the sense of achievement.
Here I would like to share some of the tools and techniques which work for me.
Let’s start with the tools I use every day. Without these tools I would not be able to stay on top of it all. Here are my favourite applications:
Todoist is a task tracker which allows me to group all my tasks into projects and sub-projects. Yes, it sounds like many other task tracker applications, but it has some features which I find very useful.
One of these features is that tasks can be repeatable. And you can set them for any period of time. I have repeatable tasks for time sheets, reading, programming language workouts… just to name a few.
The most interesting feature in my opinion is Karma. Depending on the users activity, Karma is increased by active usage of the application and decreased after several days of inactivity. Of course the application provides a vacation mode where inactivity does not influence the Karma. Or you can even explicitly set up any inactivity periods and your Karma will not be reduced during those periods.
Rescuetime runs in the background and tracks a users activity. It generates productivity reports based on used applications and visited websites. You can group reports by week, month or year and compare them to previous periods.
As a user you can set the desired level of productivity, group or regroup predefined productivity categories of applications and websites. Helping you track whether or not you meet your desired productivity level.
The application allows to set up time periods when you are supposed to be working. Outside of these periods, the user’s activity is not influencing productivity statistics. I set up the whole week including the weekend to track my activity. It saves me from useless Internet browsing.
As a human beings we cannot always stay productive and keep a desired pace. Don’t be stressed if you cannot meet the productivity level. It can be a good sign to take a break or redefine your productivity expectations.
I hope everybody knows what Evernote is, but if not, you can check it out here.
Learning and information resources
There are thousands of resources. Here I would like to share my favourite applications:
Rosalind is named in honour of Rosalind Franklin - An english chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA and viruses.
The platform contains hundreds of tasks such as text processing, probability theory and combinatorics. You are not limited in language, all you need to do is download the dataset for a task and upload the solution within 5 minutes.
All the tasks are grouped by difficulty. There is also a gaming component - for every problem solved, you receive points - and there is a leaderboard.
Exercism provides a bunch of problems to solve in different languages. To start working you need to download CLI and pull exercise. As soon as you have solved a problem and submitted your solution via CLI, your solution is accessible to code mentors so that they can review your solution and give you advice of how to solve the task in a more efficient way. You will also get access to solutions of the same task by other users.
After you upload your solution, you can download the next exercise.
Currently there are about 33 languages supported and around 22 are coming soon.
Medium and Twitter
For me, Medium and Twitter are sources of useful information - just subscribe and follow people of interest.
Non technical tools and resources
Before this point I was talking about different technical tools and resources which help me everyday. As I wrote earlier - we are not machines, we need something natural, something what only we as the human beings can appreciate. Something simple that makes us happy. Here is my list of simple things which make me happy every day:
- Sport and fitness - for me it’s climbing (all in one).
- Notepad handwriting - helps me to focus on what I want to write first which is very useful for developers.
- Music practice - several years ago I learnt to play the guitar and found that it had a positive impact on my memory and emotions.
- Learning a foreign language - I’m using Duolingo to learn Spanish.
- Reading - helps you to become a better writer.
Staying productive, intelligent and happy every day is the goal I am trying accomplish. And the tools mentioned above help me to achieve my targets.
Using of task management tool allows me to allocate time for activities I could not do before. Nobody can stop the time, but I can manage my time.
After several months of learning Spanish, I can now read simple texts. And I realise that my dream to travel around South America can become a reality.
All the tools I mentioned can help not only achieve the highest productivity, but what is more important in my opinion, can help you realise your dreams.
Knowledge of different technologies and software development languages allows me to find not only better, but beautiful solutions of the tasks at work.
It took me several months to change my lifestyle and integrate these tools into my daily life. It was not immediate process. My advice - it should be natural process. Start and continue with small changes. But try to keep a steady pace of changes - “Little strokes fell great oaks”.
If you have any more tools or advice on how to keep mind fit, I would love to hear from you - you can catch me here. And remember to ask yourself as soon as you wake up: what is one thing I can to do today to make it better than yesterday?