Meetings are needed, most of them at least, and when I worked with a team that was all in the same timezone I was easily able to say, “Between 1–4 I am coding/focusing” or “Between 6am and 9am” I am coding. Then the rest of the day was for meetings, interruptions and just helping out on things.
Blocking out time to Code/Focus and get the work done is key and without that it is hard to not find yourself working after hours when it is “quiet”
One book that pointed this out to me was REWORK by the people at 37 Signals.
But now being in different timezones things get much harder. My “coding time” now does not overlap with someone else who is leaving soon since they are UTC+1 for example. And to top it off there is Slack :( Slack.
Group chat is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda. — Jason Fried Is group chat making you sweat?
Al: Okay so I do not agree with this 100% :)
Overall when I start having to work at night to get my coding work done, that is when I know I have not managed my work day well with meetings and distractions. Yes for some their job is meetings. And for some Lead Developers meeting times increase but there still needs to be time to code/focus.
If you’re a technical lead, you need to be coding. — Martin Fowler
First Slack. Well this is just hard. New rooms showing up every day, new ideas going into “action” every moment, it truly becomes FOMO. But not so much a social FOMO as much as just falling behind in all that is going on etc. Just when I feel like I have a handle on Email, e.g I read it in the morning, lunch and end of work day and the expectations are different, then comes Slack and Chat in general. This form of communication is really all about right now or asap. Or at least I feel it is.
So during the day I started using https://github.com/mlantz/DND-Alfred-Workflow as a Pomodoro like tool to close down notifications. If I close them down manually I too often find myself forgetting to turn it on again.
This allows me to focus on what I am doing for nth minutes and coming out again to see if there are any actions or threads to take on.
So during the part of the day I am open for interruptions I can set it to “dnd 25” for 25 minutes of focus etc.
I can do this through out the day, but during the “coding time” or “focus time” I might just set “dnd 180” so 3 hours for example.
Giving you self enough time to get into the zone but not in too deep that you lose focus of the bigger picture is a good balance.
Coding or Focus Time
Since I can not section off a day for 3–4 hours since someone in UTC higher or lower than mine may need to meet with me I set aside days and expectations for the day.
Setting expectations for a day no longer leaves me feeling like I got nothing (coding) done. For example at the end of Monday I feel like I got a lot done if the meetings went well and planning for the week went well.
Are meetings days, free to be chopped up, free to NOT get large tasks done that need focus time.
These two are great days to work on organizing the week, getting all your tickets in place, pinging people in Slack about meetings and what not.
I start protecting my day after 11am. That is when I start to take on a large task. Before that time I have time for meetings and interruptions. The last of my planning should be done by now.
Thursday and Friday
These are the days for getting the work done that is on the list of items to get done. Make a realistic list for yourself. Track them using ideas like this one. And go at it.
But with that said I still need to keep an eye on Slack. But as noted above how often? And let people know your cycle of focus and reply, set your status so people know you are in a Pomodoro (tomato icon?) or just tell your team when they see that you may not get back to them asap.
But these two days should be not chopped into bits by meetings, slack and other context changes. StandUp? Fine maybe one quick one that is focused, but StandUps? That brings you out. So maybe limit to a Slack Standup.
For these StandUps stick to the guidelines
1) What did you do yesterday
2) What is your task(s) for today
3) Any blockers
Point being the doing of the work needs to get done and the planning time if done properly has had it’s chance to be laid down and hopefully done well. In this case giving it almost 50% of a chance to create a work load and expectations. (for me this is okay but for a developer maybe meetings should be 20% of your week)
And with these patterns in place, then ideally I find myself less feeling like I did not get enough done at the end of the day, or trying to do the “real work” after hours.