Micro optimisations seem to be very popular recently in work and in life. Most of these things are probably not worth while unless you are already successful and just trying to occupy your time or take your money.
Following the 80-20 rule I think you can get the more benefits from much less work. You also spend less time on thinking up and learning the latest optimisation tools and techniques which you can spend on being productive or enjoying your life.
If you are unaware of the 80-20 rule, or Pareto principle, you can generally get 80% of the results by putting in 20% of the work. I find this is true in most parts of life which is why I hate micro management and micro optimisations in general.
There is no magic set of rules that will make you more productive. There is no tool or app you can buy that will make you more productive, but there are guidelines you can follow that will help.
I think initially this works because you know it will be over in 25 minutes which gives you the motivation to start. Once your 25 minutes is up you take a 5 minute break.
Often I will take longer than 5 minutes which is possible because I do not have set working hours, I might take 10 minutes, maybe half an hour. Whatever I take I make sure to get away from the computer, maybe go for a walk, look away from the screen to prevent eye strain.
I use a free Mac app called Flow, I’m sure there are other apps available on every other platform out there.
Make a List
Just make a simple list of things you need to do. Normally for my case each item on the list will last for one or two pomodoro segments.
The list doesn’t have to be using the lastest and greatest list making, personal organisation software. Use the build in notes app on your computer or phone if you need to.
I use the free version of Workflowy, I will probably need to upgrade as I start working on more projects. It looks like a simple list but you can drill down an unlimited number of levels so each task can have subtasks, and each of them can also have subtasks, etc. It’s so quick and easy to use and works well for my use case of a one man team.
Cut Out Carbs
This one is a bit controversial, but I have noticed big improvements. I have noticed a bit increase in my productivity and concentration since cutting carbs out of my diet. I feel more alert and less easily distracted.
Again following the 80-20 principle, I do eat carbs but a lot less than I used to. I’ve cut out bread and rice all together but I will eat oats, nuts, milk and occasionally beer, also having a ‘cheat day’ sometimes is necessary.
A limited amount of caffeine works well for me in increasing productivity. I used to drink about 5 cups of coffee a day but since reducing to 2 cups I crash less and am able to focus for longer and more deeply on things.
Keep it Simple
I feel like I get a lot more done when I just keep things simple. Whether that’s my toolchain for working on a particular project or actual features that the project should have.
My setup for developing web applications is simple: VS Code, Laravel, Vue JS, Laravel Valet for local development and Laravel Forge provisions and deploys to a Digitalocean box for production.
It’s the stack I’m most familiar with and can get up and running in the least time and start making some money. If I want to build an app is there any point in just deciding to do it in Ruby? If there is no good reason to, and it’s not a pet project to learn the new tool just use what you are most familiar with.
For blogs I use WordPress for the ones that make me money, and Hugo for the passion projects.
When starting a new project it’s also best to keep that simple. If you are making an app why waste time on optimising the landing page when you haven’t got a single user yet?
I’ve had clients come to me and pay hundreds or thousands of pounds for stupid optimisations, like A/B testing changing the colour of the “Add to Cart” button to green or orange. This was on a site that was doing around £20 a day in sales.