Getting Over the Hump To Be Productive Again

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 06/05/2012

Well, it’s Tuesday morning, and despite all my will, I just can’t seem to get a big, daunting piece of work done at the office, or get the corresponding journal piece out. It’s interesting how the disjointed small journal entries don’t make the cut, and leave behind a sense of disappointment. Well, that alone is a strong argument for keeping a daily work journal. At least this way, there is time-line narrative trail showing where your time went, and imposing some continuity of thought.

No sooner said, then… I’m going to take one quick shot at fixing my Parrot AR Drone, to have it ready to demonstrate in the office. It’s not 9:00 AM yet, so I’ll give it a quick shot. Okay, it was a very fast fix. Charging battery. In case Will comes over for a demo, I should be ready. Get the app on your iPhone. The next distraction is to look at the Google Analytics split testing feature to see if its something I can write a blog post or POV about. Also some new sales pitch logistics to help work out. Also, a visit to Atlanta next week to prepare for. Oh, my poor programming.

Okay, I’m going to pass on writing a blog post on the Google A/B testing thing. And I’m not attending a meeting I’m optional on. Now, if only I ignore the preparation for the Atlanta trip for just a little bit, I can get a nice block to try to slam out the work that has been so difficult in coming. It’s not a refactoring, but it’s a pretty significant new capability to the system full of potential cans-of-worms that I have to keep in-check. Every day is a story. Most days are stories not worth telling. Make this one worth it.

It’s all about doing interesting things every day. If you are not doing things today that are at least as interesting to you as anything else you could be doing right at this moment, then maybe it’s time to re-adjust your career. This is always my goal, and I admit that it’s tricky. Things you HAVE TO do somehow get demoted in the human mind into a chore, and even the most privileged positions in life start to feel like the daily grind, because familiarity and duty are familiarity and duty, no matter how interesting (or boring, as the case may be) to other people.

Fortunately, I’ve “put the love” back into my job not too long ago with my baby on the way, and the nagging feeling that I may never get to do a major re-alignment of my skill-set again. In tech, we’re sort of fucked compared to say a violinist, who can be pretty sure their main tool of the trade isn’t going to change much from the day they pick it up to the day they die, so they can sink all that energy into pure, beautiful mastery. In tech, we don’t even know if our keyboards are going to look the same 5 years from now. So, I went in search of the “violin” of tech… and got my ass onto barebones, minimum Linux, with an age-old and almost magically timeless text editor vim, on a language that sits in that eerily awesome nexus of power and simplicity—Python. And finally, I could never lose my work, had the ultimate undo, in the form of distributed version control—Mercurial (git in Python). I took on a project at work using this platform that was very worth it to my bosses, and I have started to articulate the entire thing into a mission in life.

And so it is with that perspective that I sit down to tackle my work every day. Of course, no job is perfect, and I pay for being able to pursue this mission in life at the office by applying it towards the problems of our clients, and by doing the occasional sales-pitch, engaging in discussions, and just generally keeping on top of developments and having opinions about the happenings in the strange field where I’m currently applying my skills: natural search engine optimization, or SEO. It’s a field full of snake-oil salesmen, and I use every ounce of my skills to ensure I can walk-the-walk, and therefore am consulting from a position of authority and integrity.

And that gets us to the daily journal. Things are gradually shifting in my field away from “mechanical factors” and keyword selection towards the things being said by people who are themselves influencers and always in the spotlight. Everyone who has something interesting and unique to offer the world is… well… entering the perfect world where having something interesting and unique to offer is the new currency, which can be converted to cash-resources in forever-more fluid and friction-free ways. Writers are probably the classic examples. Content is free, but good writers can always get paid, making the perfect competitive marketplace to see this personal-brand-as-currency playing itself out. But it’ll happen soon enough with music, every sort of physical product, every creative product. If your skill is programming, you can do away with personal brand, using ecosystems like the iPhone app store.

But not everyone can go that route (apparently, such as me), so must go the writing or other app, and must build up personal-brand. And building that personal brand should be a natural side-effect of what you do anyway, and I keep a daily journal for clear thinking, which happens to be… writing! And so, I’m using it to help build my personal brand, even though it’s a rather raw and united experience. But that’s okay, because that’s part of my personal brand.

And finally, to hit the point of this post home, it’s sort of like a preamble to productivity. I have to remind myself WHY the think I’m about to do, which feels so much like a chore, is actually the thing that I love, that I chose to do, and which I am in a privileged position in life for it to be part of my job to actually have the opportunity to do so. So, I use this to light a fire under my ass and get to it. Form a story around it. Compel myself with that story. Remind myself that I’m getting compounding returns by getting through this piece of work, documenting it, testing and deploying it with all due haste.