Your day is a mess. Here is how to fix it

Your day is a mess. Here is how to fix it

Actionable steps for software developers to bring clarity and piece of mind to their busy workdays

How much of a day do you spend actually producing delivery code? How much do you spend on something else?

As knowledge workers and team players, we have a bunch of stuff to figure out every day that does not directly produce value.

Daily and weekly recurrent tasks.

Here are top-of-mind examples of mine:

  • ⬜ Peer review

  • ⬜ Review of My Tasks in Jira

  • ⬜ Inboxes cleanup (emails, alerts)

  • ⬜ Workspace cleanup (browser / IDE tabs)

  • ⬜ Team activities such as estimations, groomings, KTs


Thus, to beat this clutter as an organized knowledge worker I argue you need to:

  • 👉 Batch small tasks into one called Daily Checklist, a 15-20 min daily time block

  • 👉 Schedule bigger ones, such as peer reviews up front, preferably at the exact same time in the day so your brain is prepared

  • 👉 Share your calendar away so your manager knows what you are spending time on except the delivery

So that:

  • You never have to remember what you need to do

  • Your team knows when you are available for a meeting

  • You can travel back in time to see exactly what you have been busy with

  • Your manager doesn't put anything into your inbox without taking other things back

How to start?

Here are step-by-step organized ideas for structuring recurrent tasks.

  1. Create a list of recurrent tasks

    Use mine as inspiration. Make your list pinned - it's just the first draft and you need to have a quick way to make changes

  2. Batch small tasks into one

    Group items that take less than 2 (or whatever feels small) minutes into one "Daily Checklist" task.

  3. Schedule Daily Checklist + Larger tasks

    Here is how to approach it - against each task, ask: "Can it be done every day/week/couple of days at the same time?", in other words:

    "Is there an algorithm behind the time the task should be done?".

    • 👉🏼 If yes - use your calendar's automation tool to schedule it forever.

    • 👈🏼 If not - add a respective “schedule X” task to your Daily Checklist.

Let's crack 2 examples:

  • Peer Review takes approximately 1 hour every day and the best time is right after the end of the workday.

    Viola, you have an algorithm: Every day at 18:00, schedule and foget.

    Here's how it looks like in Google Calendar

  • Grooming takes from 0 (we don’t have new task in backlog) to 1 hour (we have many) a day - no chance to get it standardized right away.

    Let’s add “Check backlog and schedule grooming if needed” to your Daily Checklist and the decision will be made every day.

There’s an opinion: you can schedule your optional tasks anyway, so in case you need to do that you have your time protected up front. Share how you handle it down below 👇🏼💬

My rule of thumb - there’s always better to schedule things upfront if possible

  • 👉🏼 It reduces the number of decisions you need to make every day

  • 👉🏼 It protects your calendar upfront

  • 👉🏼 It exposes your workload to your manager the team

New items coming up

Now you have your tasks listed and scheduled, but no plan lasts long unchanged. Let’s crack the case if something new is coming up.

Say you have a newcomer in the team (let’s name her Jane) and your manager asks you to review her work daily. That would mean you need to get Jane on a call and make a peer review/peer coding along with her. Sounds like an hour a day you are dedicating to Jane, let’s put it on your calendar.

  1. Agree with Jane on the time and duration of your peer activity (say 1 hour, 2 PM)

  2. Use the p.3 of “How to Start” to place the thing on your calendar or tasks list

Now you have a predictable and structured task in your agenda. What is important, your manager now sees the new thing on your plate in terms of time and won’t expect your delivery rate to stay the same.

2 words about weekly review

It's worth mentioning besides daily some items would fit into the weekly one. I use the weekly for more high-level things:

  • 📅 Follow-ups from the previous weeks' calendar events; "thank you" notes, reminders and "ask me later" items.

  • 🎯 Reviewing company vs personal goals/projects to keep doing the right thing.

  • 📚 Any once-a-week optional scheduling as estimations or knowledge-sharing sessions.

The rules of scheduling are pretty much the same - the more you have standardized, the less admin overhead you have on deciding when to do that.

Aim to use "Is there an algorithm behind the time the task should be done?" for everything that is coming from both outside (your manager, teammates) and inside (your own ideas and projects).

Wrapping up

I stay on the notion that having your calendar structured leads to clarity and peace of mind. As software engineers, the most value we deliver is being created in our focus time, protected from all sneaky urgent-but-not-so-important tasks, from checkups and forgotten chores.

So then:

  • List all recurrent tasks you have daily and weekly

  • Batch smallish to “Review” tasks

  • Schedule recurrent time blocks right away for as many bigger ones as possible

  • Expose your workload to your team and manager

Enjoy clarity and focus.