Nick Ginther's Blog

My Current Working Habits

I change up my working habits so often that I thought it would be a fun experiment to write my current habits down here, and then revisit them later to see what's changed. I started my current routine about 2 months ago in an effort to break myself out of a slight productivity slump, and so far things are going well! The habits I'll go into are my working memory file, my todo list/planning journal, and my time blocking strategy.

First, I'll talk about my working memory file. This is actually something that I've been doing much longer than 1 month. In fact, according to the earliest working memory file I can find, I've been doing this for over a year. So, what's a working memory file? It's basically another name for "notes". What makes it somewhat special is its structure. During the week, anything that I feel that I need to remember at a future point goes into the file. At the beginning of a new week, I start a new blank working memory file in Google Docs. I copy over the entire past week's doc, and then remove any notes that are no longer relevant to this week, while maintaining notes that may be relevant to this weeks' work. This allows me to get rid of mental cruft from completed or blocked projects, while maintaining a coherent through line of thought from one week to the next. However, this system is simple enough to not suffer from the overhead I've found when trying other knowledge tracking systems like GTD. If I need to refer to past knowledge in the notes, I use Google Cloud Search to search over all my docs.

My planning journal is a more recent addition, coming into my workflow about 2 months ago. My planning journal is a physical journal where I plan my tasks for the day and journal what I've gotten done and various quick notes (any more significant notes go into my working memory file). Each day takes up 2 pages, one on the left side of the journal and one on the right. The left side is a timestampped accomplishment journal. There, I write down what I've gotten done and at what time. This is helpful since tasks frequently take much more than a simple bullet point can describe. On the right side of the journal is a todo list for the day. At the beginning of the day I plan out all tasks I want to do for that day. Once I'm through all the tasks, I may add more, or I'll take some time for research and experimentation. Of course, I frequently mis-estimate and complete less tasks or complete all the tasks super fast, but that's just programming baby!

Along with the above, I also have a time-blocking strategy that I feel helps me keep focused and energized throughout the day. My working ritual goes like this: I set a 90-120 minute timer on my Apple Watch, I put on my headphones and play some objectively good music, and then I start tackling the next un-checked box on my todo list. I feel the timer and music really help me keep focused and "achieve "flow"", much better than any solution I've tried before. After the timer goes off, I set another timer on my watch for a small break (usually 15-20 minutes). During this time, I can do anything except for work or look at my phone. I've found looking at my phone is about as stressful as working, and the point of the break is to come out refreshed. Some things I'll do include reading, cleaning, or going outside for a bit.

That about sums it up! These systems have helped me stay productive and lower my stress even while detoxing off of caffiene (4 cups a day 😱). Another ritual that's being incorporated recently is the post-lunch nap, but that's been so great that I might make a whole other post about it.

blessings and love - nick ginther