Tag Archives: productivity

QSEU14 Breakout: What is Productivity and Why Are We Tracking It?

Today’s post comes to us from Brian Crain. Brian has been testing different productivity methods for over three years. After his great show&tell talk desrcribing how he tracks his own productivity he led a breakout session on the topic. This led to interesting dicussion around how people tracked themselves and what they wish they could track better. You’re invited to read Brian’s description of the session below and then join the discussion on the QS Forum.

Productivity Breakout Session
By Brian Crain

The idea of the productivity breakout session was to discuss three questions that I thought were central to tracking productivity in a systematic way:

  • How do you define productivity?
  • What metrics represent productivity best?
  • How can you use those metrics to track what you actually care about?

These were difficult questions to answer for me and the same turned out to be true for the other participants in the session. It seems, while many people are interested in productivity tracking, few have clearly defined what they mean with the term in the first place. And even when there is a definition, upon closer inspection it is only loosely related to the thing we track.

After the session a participant made the following comment to me, “It’s fascinating to dive into this big unknown.” This was a great summary of our session, but also astonishing in a way. When compared to those new, exciting Quantified Self pursuits be it lifelogging or tracking hormones, productivity tracking seems like a quaint discipline with a long history. Yet, we seem far away from any definite answers.

There was, however, one topic that kept coming up during the discussion: many participants mentioned that, for them, being in a flow state or a state of high cognitive performance was productivity. Strictly speaking, this is nonsensical. Cognitive state might be what makes productivity possible, but surely it is not productivity itself?

Admittedly, since many methods of ‘productivity tracking’ are indirect, focusing on cognitive state might not be so unreasonable. Unfortunately, it seemed that no one had been tracking his cognitive state, so we’ll have to wait for a show&tell to see the promise of this approach. At least, based on my small unscientific sample, tracking flow states might be a great self-tracking project for those hoping to make a big splash at QSEU15.

If someone has ideas about how best to approach a project like that, please get in touch on our forum discussion!

For those who are interested in reading more about the topic, here are some books and resources mentioned during the session:

If you’re interested in discussing productivity tracking we invite you to continue the conversation on the QS Forum.

 

 

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Brian Crain on Optimizing Productivity

There are many people in the QS community who are fascinated by understanding productivity. We’ve featured many different talks that explore different methods for tracking and hopefully improving productivity. At the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference we were happy to continue this exploration with a show&tell talk by Brian Crain. Brian has been thinking about his productivity since 2011. He tried a few different methods, but he’s found that using the pomodoro technique has been very helpful in understanding and improving his work. Watch his talk below to learn what he found by tracking the number of pomodoros he completes each day and what new methods he’s using to make sure he gets things done.


You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
I started tracking my work time using the Pomodoro Technique in 2011 and have been logging all my sessions since September 2012. While, I have kept experimenting with different productivity methods, my consistent usage of the Pomodoro Technique has given me a great view of changes over time. I also discussed my experience with tracking my commitments over the past months.

How did you do it?
For the Pomodoro Technique, I would set a task, work on it for 25 minutes, then log the task. Over time, I built a large excel sheet that automatically updates with a variety of metrics that tell me how much productive time I spent working and how that has changed over time. For the commitment tracking, I would use an agenda, where I write down all commitments. I would then cross out completed commitments and track my compliance at the end of each day.

What did you learn?
I learned that having a continuous metric is enormously motivating since it allows you to continually improve yourself. These small, continuous changes make a huge difference over time. I also learned that building a user-interface is tricky, but very important to make tracking rewarding. This is something I successfully did with the Pomodoro Technique, but have found difficult to replicate with other methods. Finally, tracking commitments has taught me how critical one’s mindset is. When I would slip into thinking of commitments as simple tasks, my success with that method derailed completely. So for that method, I realized how important it is to build a system and user interface that helps maintain the commitment mindset.

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QS Gallery: David El Achkar

We thought it would be nice to post David’s 138 days of activities visualization here. Make sure to watch his talk from the 2013 QS Global Conference to learn how he created this and what he’s learned from tracking his time.

This is my life during the past six months. Each square = 15 minutes. Each column = 1 day. This picture represents 138 days or 3,000+ activities.
- David El Achkar

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David El Achkar on Tracking Time

When David El Achkar made a big change in his life, transitioning out of his consultant role, he started wondering how the lack of daily structure would affect how he spent his time. He decided to tackle this question and start tracking his activities. In the video that follows David explains how he accomplishes this by using a Google calendar and a specific formatting system. He also elaborates on a few key insights about where his time goes and what he’e learned about his productivity. After you watch the video make sure to check out David’s website, where he’s done a great job explaining his findings.

We’ll be posting videos from our 2013 Global Conference during the next few months. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.

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Robby Macdonell on Tracking 8,000 Screen Hours

Productivity tracking is nothing new. People have been keeping checklists and marking off to do’s for ages. But what about all the little stuff that gets thrown in during the day? For the last six years Robby Macdonnell has been tracking his productivity and how he spends his time on his various computers (home and work) and even how he uses phone. Over those years he’s amassed 8,300 hours of screen time. Watch his great talk to hear what’s he learned about his work habits, productivity and how he’s come to think about time.

We’ll be posting videos from our 2013 Global Conference during the next few months. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.

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QS Gallery: Nick Winter

Nick Winter is a tracker, self-experimenter, and builder of popular tools (like Quantified Mind). Nick sent us this amazing visualization of his percentile feedback system he uses to keep track of his work efficiency.

My percentile feedback graph of my development productivity helps my motivation
-Nick Winter

Continue reading

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Stan James on Project Life Slice

Last December, Stan James started to wonder how much of every day he spent staring at glowing rectangles, and how he was spending that time. He set up his webcam to take a picture of himself every hour, as well as a screenshot of what he’s working on. In the video below, Stan talks about how he set up his project, shows some of his data, and reveals some interesting tidbits about his learnings. (Filmed by the Bay Area QS Show&Tell meetup group.)

Stan James – Project Life Slice from Gary Wolf on Vimeo.

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Nick Winter on Productivity Tracking using Percentile Feedback

Nick Winter was inspired by Seth Roberts to track his productivity. He uses the method of percentile feedback, which compares his current productivity to past productivity as he goes about the hours of his days. Nick uses it to help prioritize his work projects, and he gives a short talk about his experience below. (Filmed by the Pittsburgh QS Show&Tell meetup group.)

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Adam Loving on Featbeat

Adam Loving wanted a very lightweight way to track what he did each day, without tweeting it to the world. He built a simple system where he can tell Siri what he did, and it gets recorded in a database. Some data gets automatically entered through if this then that. Adam found that it has motivated him to continue his pushup/situp routine, and keeping his system simple has helped him uncover some funny problems for future improvement. (Filmed by the Seattle QS Show&Tell meetup group.)

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Buster Benson: How I Use RescueTime

Buster Benson of Habit Labs likes to experiment with productivity, among other things. He uses RescueTime to see which apps and websites he spends the most time on each week. The winners are his text editor (for coding) and Gmail. In the video below, Buster talks about the ease of different kinds of tracking, from passive to binary to active entry, and previews some some Habit Labs apps. The folks from RescueTime are also present, adding to the audience discussion. (Filmed by the Seattle QS Show&Tell meetup group – first video from them!)

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