May 20, 2022

Working smarter: top productivity tips - Fernando Bordallo

Fernando Bordallo
Working smarter: top productivity tips - Fernando Bordallo

Quick pulse check! Have you ever felt like you are always busy but don’t get to the things you really want to do? Or have you ever felt like you simply don’t have enough hours in a day? If so, you are not alone. Not by miles! My name is Fernando and I work as an engineering manager at Atlassian, and I know these feelings all too well.

In university, I got through mechanical engineering and computer-driven design without thinking too much about how I spent my time. Some days I’d be super pressed! Last-minute delivery or cramming for a test! On the next assignment, I might have felt at ease, but the fact is I had SOOO MUCH TIME in my hands I didn’t really think about how to use it efficiently. I felt like I could do anything I wanted to do, within the limits of my resources of course. Now I find myself living a very different life, where my calendar and focus are pretty much vital for personal and professional success (sometimes mere survival).

FUN FACT: Years ago I was by far the worst time manager of all my friends. I never really knew what day of the week it was or when public holidays were. More than once I reached a faculty door or the work office only to find that everyone was chillin' at the beach.

As you can imagine, my pointers on productivity are going focus on time awareness and how you spend it. But first, let’s define productivity. From Oxford Language definitions:

Adjective: producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.

The key takeaway you should keep in mind when thinking about productivity is your outcome or impact. You might be thinking, “but I get so much done! and yet …”. That is a classic busy-bee syndrome right there. Lot’s going on but not enough of what you consider to be really valuable or impactful. It’s also known as the “Mere urgency effect”. Side by side what you produce are the goals you set for yourself. Ultimately, you have to measure your outcomes against the targets you aimed for.

So here are my 3 top productivity tips for you:

  • Know your goals and prioritize them. Ruthlessly.
  • There is a place and time for everything. Plan and allocate time to what is important.
  • Enjoy yourself. Make sure you eat well, exercise, relax, and sleep like a pro.

🦅 Prioritize your goals

Knowing what you want or need to do is half the battle to be won. But having a list of those things won’t be enough. You need to sort them in order of importance. What “important” means will depend on your personal situation. Think about your deadlines or the value doing something will bring to understand what matters most and should be at the top of your list.

I myself start every week with a 30-minute review of what my goals for the next 3 months are and what I need to do during the week to move towards meeting them. Having this list of things clear to me allows for quick decision-making during the next few days. If something new pops up, I know what it’s against.

There are several ways of visualizing your priorities but I personally like the Eisenhower matrix, which helps to do a first split between the things you want to do:

This however might feel like overkill if you only have 3-5 things to do and you can easily sort them out. But whatever method you use to know your goals, make sure you write them or type them and sort them. Having a physical/digital representation of your list that you can actually see 👀 has no replacement when it comes to making sure you are clear on what needs your attention.

🕰 A place and time for everything

From cracking a problem that’s annoying you, to training with your team, practicing a hard routine, or simply relaxing, you’ll want to know when you are going to give your time to things. To some, this might feel like you are taking away the fun and spontaneity from life. I beg to differ. To give you a simple example, you can plan your holidays months in advance and have a rough idea of the places you want to visit or activities you want to book and still have a might blast, full of wonder and surprises.

Giving structure to your time will free your mind more than you think. Most importantly, it will free your mind during the time that you are NOT doing something that you know needs doing. So here is my top tip. When you have something important to do, think about how long it should take you and block out time on a calendar to do it. A time that makes sense and that will ensure you are in a good place, mindset, and energy level to take on the task. Once that is done, you’ll free your mind outside those blocks of time knowing that the job will get the attention it deserves at a particular moment 😎 Now you can focus on other things. I personally put this to best use during my weekly review of goals. There I plan the week ahead and make sure the important things I need to do have time to get done and if I don’t have time to do them, I call it out to those depending on my work.

🤪 Balance and have fun

Last but not least, keep up some good habits and always look for the fun in whatever you do. Striking a good balance between ensuring you do yourself a favour and eat healthy food, have a solid sleep routine, meditate once in a while, and still having a blast will do wonders for your spirits. High energy and joy levels are addictive and contagious, so keep an eye for things that make you smile.

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