Productivity is meaningless without a goal, and no activity is banned from being considered productive.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Everyone you're listening to develop a T, my name is Jonathan Cutrelle. Think about the week ahead of you. If you're listening to this on the day that it comes out, it's a Monday. And you probably, like me, like most of the people listening, have a lot scheduled for you to do this week. Some of those things are implicitly scheduled. There's things that you do kind of automatically by habit or by necessity. Maybe it's the times that you eat your meals or the commute that you have. Maybe you take your children to school. Or perhaps you take your pet on a walk. Or maybe you have friends that you spend time with on a regular basis. So regular that they just show up at your door. Whatever your routine looks like, you probably have these implicit things that are happening. And then you have explicit things that are happening. Most of these probably related to your work. So certainly those are not the only explicit things on your schedule. And if you think about the way that you're spending your time, quite critically, this is the most important kind of analysis that you can do. How are you spending your time? And if you're listening to this podcast and really a lot of podcasts out there cover this particular kind of content, you probably care about being productive. You want to become more productive. You want your time to be spent well. But how do you measure this? How do you decide whether or not your time was spent well? If you were to look back on your last week, could you identify on a scale of, let's say, one to five, how productive any particular meeting, any particular action you took, any particular behavior that you continue to participate in your habits? Could you rate those on a scale from one to five in terms of their productivity? In today's episode, we're going to clarify how you can start to think more clearly about productivity in your life. First, we're going to talk about today's sponsor. Today's episode is sponsored by InstaBug. Building and maintaining mobile applications is not simple. Bugs, crashes, and performance issues can be a nightmare for developers like you. What if you could not only detect and dissect these issues, but also get a holistic understanding of your app's performance? Well, that's exactly what you can do with InstaBug. Through comprehensive bug and crash reports, performance monitoring, and real-time user feedback, InstaBug gives you the visibility you need to build top-quality apps. You can observe and fix issues like UI hangs, slow app launches and screen loads, network failures, and anything else that may be affecting your user's experience. Get a quick read on their impact on your users and access all of the granular data relevant to the issue in seconds so you can prioritize, assign, and debug before your next update release. It only takes a minute to integrate InstaBug's SDK into your app, and if it's right into your workflow with integration support for Jira, Slack, Trello, GitHub, Zendesk, and many more. Stop flying blind on your mobile app issues and try InstaBug today by going to InstaBug.com. Get the visibility you need to start delivering superior app performance and better user experience. InstaBug.com. Thanks again to InstaBug for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. What was the last thing that you did that made you more productive? How do you know? If you're like most people, the thing you think about is getting more done in less time. Maybe before you could do three things, three tasks on your task list. The thing that made you more productive is something that allowed you to start doing four tasks on your task list. This is the most common frame of reference for what it means to become more productive. Most of the productivity hacks out there, even with good intentions, provide you tactical advice like for example, turn off all of the notifications on your phone. Now don't let me be the one that keeps you from turning off the notifications on your phone. There certainly is some good tactical advice out there. But pretty much across the board, the productivity advice you've probably gotten in your career up to this point misses the picture altogether. Because in order to become more productive, we need to understand what it means to be productive. In fact, we have this assumption of productivity that is so pervasive that we don't even question it. In fact, when I say productivity, it's hard for you, most likely, to separate that concept from the definition we already gave, getting more done. And here's the important part. This assumes that whatever is on your to-do list is pure gold. Then productivity is purely defined by getting more done on that list. It assumes that everyone has a clear picture of what should be on the list. If that were true, then that definition of productivity, to some degree, stands. But the problem is that usually it's not true. And in fact, even if it is true, then purely getting more done does not encompass all of the ways that you can be more productive. As I've asked you to do before, take out whatever note-taking device that you typically use if you care about remembering anything in this episode, this is what I want you to remember. Productivity is meaningless without a goal. Productivity is meaningless without a goal. It is aimless without a goal. If you have no goal, then it is impossible to be productive. Let's make that extremely clear. If you have no goal, then it is impossible to be productive. Now you might be thinking, well, of course I have a goal. My goal is to get the things on this list done. This is an incomplete picture of what it means to have a goal. What are the things on the list? And what are they actually carrying you towards? What are you trying to accomplish by doing those things? If the answer is just to finish the things that are on the list, then you could put a bunch of easy tasks on the list and go and knock them out and check off all of the tasks and you've met your goal. But if that's not actually the case, then you need to trace down your goals a little bit more clearly. If you have on your list of things to do, to clean your house, to clean your room, to straighten your kitchen, or to do the laundry, your goal is not to have your laundry complete. What is your goal? Well, there's a lot of different goals that people have in these scenarios. One might be to have laundry available to wear. And you can notice that the effect of doing your laundry may help you reach that goal, but it's not the only way to get there. For example, you may actually hire somebody to take your clothes to the laundromat for you. In these simple cases, usually our intuition serves us decently well. If we want to have clothes to wear this week, we know that our current clothes are dirty and barring some fairly inefficient solution, like going and replacing our wardrobe, then actually doing the laundry probably makes the most sense. It's probably a reasonable step that will actually be productive towards our goal. But as our goals become more complex, for example, virtually all of our professional goals in life, the steps towards actually accomplishing those goals become much more murky, much more difficult to predict. In fact, so many of our day-to-day tasks are so far disconnected from our goals that if we actually had to connect them, we may have trouble doing so. So here's your homework for today, or until you listen to the next episode of this show. I want you to be relentless about defining your goals. Be relentless about defining your goals. Now, this doesn't mean that you get to go and start slashing every event on your calendar, especially if there are events on your calendar that other people are expecting you to participate in. Just because something doesn't help you reach your goal right now doesn't mean that there are no consequences to not participating. However, as often as possible, try to push the things that you're doing more and more towards actually helping you accomplish your goals. What this really requires is for you to think very thoroughly about the goals that you have and the steps that might be needed in order to achieve those goals. Some simple analysis can help you validate whether your activities are actually carrying you towards something you want or not. I want you to do an exercise. It's a little variation on the five whys, which we've talked about plenty of times on the show before. You've probably heard of it before. If you haven't, then you can Google the five whys and understand that basically it's a root cause analysis. But we're not looking at causes really here. We're looking for motivation. What I want you to do is identify a why for a given activity and then also identify what happens if I don't. On the don't side of things, what you're trying to do is both look at the positives and the negatives. What happens if I don't do this? Create a benefit to not doing the thing and a negative to not doing that thing. Importantly, I want you to look at this whole picture and try to determine based on all of this evidence that you've generated. Does this particular activity carry you closer or further away from your goals? It's also important to notice that you are very unlikely to have a single goal. This usually is not true for businesses. Businesses pretty much across the board exist to make money. They may have different reasons for wanting to make money different ways of using that money, different motivations, but at the end of the day, a business typically exists for one purpose and that is to make money. People are much more complex. In recognizing that you have multiple goals is critical to understanding how those goals fit in with each other. You may have a goal of retiring early. This is kind of a crossover of a business goal and a personal goal. You want to retire early, therefore you want to perhaps make as much money as you can, create side hustles, do side businesses, etc. But you may also have a goal of fostering good relationships with your friends. Spending time playing video games with your friends may seem like it's taking you away from your goals if you're just looking at the one goal of trying to retire early, but it may also be taking you towards your goal of fostering good relationships with your friends. We're not going to get into how do you balance these goals in today's episode, but instead I wanted to bring up the simple fact that humans have complex goals and these goals typically compete with each other. It's tempting to believe that productivity is tracking only towards one goal that spending time playing video games with your friends is not productive in no world. Could you imagine it being productive? But in fact, that's not necessarily true. Because once again, productivity is meaningless without a goal. And if you have a goal of fostering good relationships with your friends, then let me be the first one to tell you, sometimes playing video games is the most productive thing you can do. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope that this gives you a new lens on what it means to be productive. And I hope it gives you a charge, a feeling of responsibility and ownership over that productivity. And also a lot of homework to do on what your goals are, establishing those with a lot of clarity, and especially with a lot of honesty and openness to yourself. You might realize in this process that you have goals that you didn't realize that you had before. Thanks again to today's sponsor, InstaBug, building and maintaining mobile applications is not simple. Through comprehensive bug and crash reports, performance monitoring, and real-time user feedback, InstaBug gives you the visibility you need to build top-quality apps. Go to instabug.com and get the visibility you need to start delivering superior app performance and better user experience. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea. I hope we can talk more and more about this idea of establishing our goals clearly and then wrapping our productivity in the way we spend our time around those goals. This is one of the most complex topics that you're going to deal with in your career, both at the professional and team level, establishing team goals and deciding what kinds of activities care you towards those team goals, but even more complex in your personal goals and your personal life. How do you balance all of these things? These are the kinds of topics that we like to talk about on the show. If you don't want to miss out on that, then I encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you're currently using number one. And then number two, if you want us to continue doing this podcast, one of the best ways that you can help us is to leave a review in whatever platform you're using. iTunes is probably the most effective platform to leave a review in if you have access to iTunes and iTunes account. This helps other engineers like you find the show. You're probably not oblivious to this if you've been listening to podcasts for any amount of time at all, but we still have a lot of you who have not, in fact, the vast majority of you have not given a review to this podcast and each and every one of those really does help. So please take the time to leave a review if this podcast is providing value to you in your career and your personal life. It's one little thing you can do that can help us out on into the future. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.