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Listener Question: Sahar asks, "How do I get more out of my day?"

Published 9/7/2015

In today's episode, I answer a question from listener Sahar.

In this episode, I cover the concept of "The Minimum Viable Day" as well!

Today's Sponsor is: Digital Ocean

Go to https://digitalocean.com to get started on cloud hosting. Use the promo code "DEVELOPER TEA" at the checkout after you create your account to get a $10 credit!

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Until next time,

Enjoy your tea

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea my name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I'm going to be answering a question from listener Sahar. Sahar writes in, hi Jonathan first of all I want to say a big thank you for all your hard work and your awesome content that you create. You're the best. These are so and so hard words I promise I'm not trying to to brag to you guys. I appreciate that so hard. Sahar continues. I've also got a question for you. So you know how you speak about work life balance. Well I struggle with that. I work full time as a WordPress and front end developer from 830 to 530 but my work is so far away from home that I only get a couple of hours after work to have some dinner, get my stuff sorted for the next day and sometimes rarely if I get enough time I exercise a bit. I never get enough time to learn new things and work on personal projects after work and I'm not able to try new technologies at work. I feel like I'm stuck. What am I doing wrong and how can I manage my time better? Looking forward to hearing from you cheers. Sahar. And once again of course as always the listener question applies in so many ways to so many different types of people. Sahar people like you who have a longer than average commute and then of course people like students who have a lot of class time and maybe a lot of study time and they don't have a lot of time outside of that to pursue the things that they want to pursue or necessarily to take care of themselves for example. So Sahar you're not alone is what I'm saying here and I have some advice for you. Some of it may seem obvious. In fact I've got a couple of things on my list of obvious answers or obvious pieces of advice that I want to give you. Number one is consider moving closer to work and this may be so obvious that you've written it off and even if you haven't Sahar maybe somebody else listening to this has written off this option of moving closer to wherever it is that they work for whatever reason maybe it's too expensive or perhaps you don't like the area. But the question that you have to ask yourself is how much is the time that I'm currently spending commuting worth to me and if I can cut that time in half how much would that extra time be worth to me is it worth paying a little bit more in rent or in a mortgage is it worth maybe it's worth living in an area that you don't particularly love for a little while. There are answers to all these questions and you just have to determine in your own priority list how important it is for you to stay in the place you're currently staying in. Another obvious answer for you Sahar you mentioned that you don't really use new tools during your day job. Now one very obvious answer to this is you need to talk to your boss about using new tools. Now this is again something that a lot of people ignore verbalizing the desire to move into new tools or move into new areas of technology as a developer your boss very well could have a great lineup for you to start learning they may invest in your learning they may invest in you spending time picking up new tools or perhaps they will ask you why do you want to learn new tools and what projects do you see these new tools fitting on. The reality is most of the time you learning new tools certainly benefits your employer and if your employer is is a good employer if they know what they're doing in this business they know that they know that you having new skills and acquiring new skills is valuable the only question really is how much can the invest in you acquiring those skills before they have the capital to invest into those skills so maybe you can ask your boss if you can barter with them say I will spend an hour at work and an hour at home learning this particular technology then you are kind of splitting the bill with them in a way you're telling them that you're going to invest more than what they allow you to invest at work so that you can learn more so that you can use that skill set much quicker in the pay off is faster for your for your employer at that point so so are I kind of have assumed that you have told your boss that you want to use new tools and that you're interested in you using new tools but is very possible that you haven't thought about that option in its important for you to talk to your boss about those things so make sure that you verbalize that to your boss and talk about the value of those new tools I will be so bold as to say that if your boss is closed to the idea of ever adopting new tools if your boss thinks that they are going to stay on one tool for the rest of their career then that is a potentially dangerous employment situation for you to be in and you should consider your next steps now not telling you to go in and quit tomorrow but I would definitely consider the long term future these tools move quickly this industry moves quickly and if your boss or the company that you work for is unwilling to change then they will be surpassed and you may be out of employment without choosing to be out of employment you may be not only fired but you may be laid off because the company becomes not viable any longer if they choose not to adapt with the industry that they're in so consider consider that as an overarching kind of safety net if the company that you work at is uninterested in changing with the industry if they're uninterested in learning new tools or adopting new tools and if they're inflexible to that idea then you should probably consider what your next step in your career will be on the flip side if you are an employer who is not currently investing in learning new tools I would highly recommend that you come up with some sort of strategy for consistent learning on your respective development teams of course there's a million ways to do this you could literally invest money in scholarships to online schools or perhaps even local physical schools in your area to invest in learning or you can simply give people some time on the clock or maybe it's as simple as you supporting them in their off time by providing them you know some kind of space to talk about the subjects that they're learning about in any case you should be advancing the learning on your respective development teams so so hard we've talked about a few things that I would consider kind of obvious about your particular situation a number one considering moving closer to work number two verbalizing your desire to try the new tools that you want to learn at your work so now I want to talk about some things that are maybe less obvious number one ask your boss if he would be willing to consider letting you work remotely now if this seems like an unlikely leap maybe you can start by asking him for just one day of remote work per week and if your boss trust you honestly this may be more possible than you would imagine many companies have done this successfully in fact thirty seven signals wrote a book called remote and it's all about this idea all include a link in the show notes for you so hard the truth of remote work is that every office is different every situation is different but it's very possible that your boss would be open to letting you work some days remote just some of the time maybe not all of the time don't look at it as a as a binary a binary question don't look at it as either you are a remote worker or you are not a remote worker look at it as a sliding scale you may rather work remote one or two days then no days at all and the reason for this is because quite simply it removes your commute there are a lot of tools that support this especially for developers so remote work is absolutely possible for your profession in most cases now there may be something really specific to your case that makes it impossible and then of course you know that's a problem that you can't really solve very easily by asking for remote work capabilities this is definitely something that a lot of people are exploring and there's more and more availability for this bandwidth continues to increase so if you have for example a VPN you can get access to that VPN from your home network just as easily as you would at your work network so definitely consider whether or not remote work would be the right solution for you and talk to your boss about it it certainly is a viable option for a lot of companies right now the second piece of advice is less actionable and it's a little bit more about your attitude and your approach and that is quite simply start with yourself start with yourself don't allow yourself to be a martyr to overwork for so long that you feel like there's no way out of it I can tell you that you do not have to sacrifice everything else in your life to be a successful developer being a successful developer can be accomplished with balance in your life so what I would recommend that you start doing try this for a week or maybe two weeks and see how you feel afterwards every morning give yourself an hour or so before you go to work so wake up maybe an hour or an hour and 15 minutes in advance of when you would normally wake up and give yourself that time to do whatever you choose to do now I would recommend that you do something like reading or perhaps exercising or doing something for yourself that you feel like is going to better you going to advance you and there's a lot of reasons why you should do this in the morning and there's some research around it in fact there's a book that I'm going to include in the show notes called the miracle morning by a guy named how L. Rod now I haven't read the book just a disclaimer but I have seen a lot of positive reviews of the book but the the idea here is that the morning is before you have had a chance to become exhausted so you are putting yourself first both mentally but also quite literally physically you put yourself first because your brain has not had a chance to become fatigued yet you haven't had the entire day's worth of time put on to your brain and there's not a lot of cognitive load so you have a lot more willpower in the morning this has been researched multiple times when you have that willpower in the morning you should give it to yourself give yourself that first hour and do the things that you've been wanting to do learn the things you've been wanting to learn early early in the morning before you go to work because most of the people who listen to this podcast are probably familiar with the term minimum viable product I'm going to introduce a new term and perhaps it's a little bit contrived but I'm going to call it the minimum viable day the minimum viable day so the minimum viable day what is that well it's a day where you don't compromise on the very fundamental basic parts of your life because what we're talking about here is focusing on your personal health that is your physical health your relational health your emotional and your spiritual health and then focusing on bettering yourself on advancing your career or advancing your knowledge or becoming a more well-rounded individual all of these things are fundamental to who you are but there is a minimum viable day and in that day for example you may decide for you as I have for me that a minimum viable day consists of me getting some kind of exercise as I've said in the past I have made this a default behavior for myself it is no longer the exception that I exercise but rather it is the rule and I must plan not to exercise my wife and I go to the gym together every other day and then on the off days I exercise in some way at home I bought a kettlebell and I you know I have a exercise bike at the house sometimes I'll go for a run outside whatever it is I take about an hour every single day to do some kind of physical activity and you'll hear this from a lot of people who have started working out regularly I find that I actually feel more productive each and every day when I am on that regimen then if I were to take that time and spend it working now am I actually more productive I'm not entirely sure I haven't measured that and I'm certainly not going to claim something that I haven't measured but what I do know is that I feel more energetic and I feel much more excited to sit down after I have done that exercise to work on something like for example recording Developer Teaepisodes so so hard getting back to this idea of the minimum viable day I highly recommend that you sit down and write out the things that are truly important to you not everybody's minimum viable day is going to look the same I do think there are some common things that should run through everybody's minimum viable days for example I think that exercise is very well studied and is shown to be an important part of mental health and I believe that everyone should incorporate some kind of exercise into their day or at least a couple of times into their week but any kind of meaningful change that you will go through in life will require consistency will require commitment and the only way that you can have commitment is if you truly make it a non-negotiable part of your minimum viable day so sit down and take the time plan out those priorities for example a lot of people will plan in a minimum amount of time that they spend with their children or with their spouse a lot of people will plan in nutrition goals or perhaps they'll plan in some kind of spiritual goals part of my minimum viable day for example is that every single day I have to do something for Developer Teasomething very small is enough but I have to do something for Developer Teawhat it comes down to so hard is that you have to put yourself first because if you don't put yourself first you're going to run yourself into the ground by putting other people first or by putting your schedule first so hard question happens to be a perfect question to talk about today's sponsor with so hard is wanting to find more time and spend less time doing things that are you know invaluable and he feels strapped for time today's sponsor is digital ocean and digital ocean actually helps you save time because you can spin up a server a solid state drive server in just under a minute that is very fast I've done this myself and it really did take just under a minute for me to do that they have plans starting at five dollars a month that gets you a 20 gigabyte solid state drive server that you can control you can put anything on it digital ocean also has created a ton of content to teach people how to use those servers to the best of their ability in other words you can go and learn how to write you know how to how to deploy something in a docker container on digital ocean it's really awesome that they do that they invested into the development community and this service is built for developers and it's built to save you time so hard and other people just like you if you're looking to save time and you're looking to save money digital ocean is a great way to do that by the way speaking of saving money you can get a ten dollar credit for digital ocean by using the code Developer Teaat checkout again plans start at five dollars a month so that's basically like two free months that digital ocean is providing there so check it out digital ocean dot com make sure you use the code Developer Teauh... so i want to get back to to the discussion now from so hard and talk about one final idea here and this one is something that i feel like is incredibly important and it's the thing that makes us feel like we haven't done anything productive in a given day there are a lot of causes for procrastination we've talked about procrastination on the show before i think perhaps the most important cause to be aware of is the lack of awareness and the lack of planning and very simply number three on this list for sahar's question is to maximize the seams in your day maximize the seams in your day now what do i mean by that okay well first let's talk about what a seam is seams as we're talking about them today are transitions in your day so when you are going to lunch for example or your entire lunch break rather that would be considered a seam your actual commute that is a seam uh... waking up for example that the process of getting out of bed that would be considered a seam the reality is most people don't take advantage of the seams and there's a lot to be had in the seams of your day for example sahar i would highly recommend for your long commute that you uh... get a subscription to audible or perhaps you buy the audiobooks through iTunes however you want to do it but start listening to audiobooks on your commute whether they are about technical topics or even if it's fiction uh... listening to books on your commute that's going to take advantage of the fact that you're sitting in your car or perhaps you're sitting on the bus or whatever you are not the one that is doing the driving then take a book with you if you get car sick i happen to get car sick when i read if i'm if i'm writing in a car or on a train so i listen to audiobooks and this is a very valuable resource that i would recommend you take advantage of of course podcasts are another way to learn while you're on the go but the reality is people are often very inefficient with their downtime and if you can learn to plan for those downtime moments if for example you're going to a doctor's appointment take a book with you so that when you're sitting in the waiting room you aren't just sitting there you're actually learning something you aren't sitting on your phone playing a game but instead you are reading a book that you've been wanting to read in the mornings don't allow yourself to press news in fact has been shown that uh... pressing snooze the sleep that you get is actually not very good and it's going to make you feel more tired so it's better to go ahead and jump out of bed then press news because that's a seam you are wasting time because the sleep you're kidding isn't really even worth the time that you're you're spending sleeping and definitely take advantage of your lunch breaks there's a lot of ways to take advantage of your lunch breaks you don't always have to be reading or consuming materials perhaps you want to take advantage of your lunch breaks by furthering your relationships with friends uh... instead of only going out to eat with your coworkers or maybe only going out to eat alone consider inviting your friends to go to lunch with you or maybe even going to get a short workout in at your lunch break and eating a small lunch that you bring with you from home there are many ways to maximize these down times in your life you just have to get creative and you have to know when they're coming so that they don't catch you by surprise if you wait until your downtime hits to plan what you're going to do during that downtime then you're probably going to do something that's less valuable than if you had planned in advance so for that reason i recommend always having fallback material or a fallback mode uh... so that when you do end up in a situation where you have downtime or free time and you didn't expect to have that downtime you have something to do that you feel like is productive we have to come to terms with reality so hard and everyone else who's listening to the show that there are only 24 hours in a day and so hard if you are spending nine of them at work and then another two hours uh... driving well then you're at 11 hours there there's 13 hours left and eight of those you're going to be sleeping what you do with the remaining five hours so hard what you choose to do with that is incredibly important and i would recommend that every single minute of that five hours you know what's going to happen with it and you have some sort of aspiration for what you want to happen with it so hard i encourage you to talk to your boss about possibly working remotely i encourage you to focus on yourself start with yourself give yourself that time in the morning to focus on yourself that's one of those five hours that you have in the day give yourself that one hour to focus on yourself and number three of course maximize the seams in your day don't allow yourself to be inefficient with the free time that you do have thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea. Sahara i really appreciate the kind words that you sent me and i appreciate you sending in a question if you're listening to the show and you have a question like Sahara's or perhaps you have a question totally unlike Sahara's but you still think it's a good question you can send it to me directly at developertea@gmail.com you can find me on twitter at at Developer Teathis show was brought to you by spec.fm spec is the network that i teamed up with the guys from design details to create we're always putting out new content go and check it out spec.fm if you'd like to talk to me on slack you can get into the spec slack channel by going to spec.fm slash slack of course these links will be in the show notes thank you again for listening to Developer Tea and until next time enjoy your tea.