Developer Tea

Starting Your Work Day with Autonomy

Episode Summary

One of the most valuable things you've got is the first part of your working day. In today's episode, we're talking about the best use of those first hours in your day.

Episode Notes

One of the most valuable things you've got is the first part of your working day. In today's episode, we're talking about the best use of those first hours in your day and taking advantage of the analytical part of your brain.

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Episode Transcription

One of the most valuable things that you have is the first part of your working day. When I say the first part, I don't necessarily mean that it's the morning for everyone, and I also don't mean that it's the first thing that you do when you're working. What I mean by this is kind of the primary time of your work, schedule. We've discussed this a few times, and we've used information from a guest on the show, Daniel Pink, in his book, When, a very profound book about the timing of your daily schedule, and also the timing of your, even your yearly or seasonal schedules. One of the most important parts of our discussion with Daniel was the discussion around the types of people, and when you're kind of best working hours are for things like analytical tasks. For some people, it's early in the morning, for some people, it's later in the morning, and some people are flipped, and it's in the evening. Now, when I'm talking about the first part of your day, I'm referring to that primary part, that working analytical part, where your brain is kind of firing on all cylinders. If we focus on that part, that's one of the most valuable things that you have as a developer, and it happens, essentially, in one window every day. How can we take best advantage of this time? The most obvious answer, and hopefully the one that comes to mind is that we should schedule our work days to take advantage of the time that our brain is firing on all cylinders. But beyond just scheduling around this, we also need to make sure that when we do sit down to begin our work, that we're ready to go. That we don't waste time with some kind of administrative tasks, or trying to get back into the flow, trying to remember where we were, we basically need a zero warm-up time kind of schedule. How can we accomplish this? That's what we're talking about in today's episode. I'm going to present an experiment to you for you to try. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose and do better work so they can have a positive influence on the people around them. So when we study human behavior, one of the things that we notice, especially in children, is that being given a choice is a precursor for active engagement. It's no surprise to the parents or the teachers or other caretakers who are listening to this show right now, that children don't like not being given an option. They don't like being told what to do. And this shouldn't be surprising because adults don't really like being told what to do either. Our sense of autonomy and agency are very important. There are quite a number of research papers written on the subject of autonomy on children, and the effect that it has on learning and things like moral development. And ultimately, when you provide a choice to any human, not just children, you're engaging that person. You're engaging that person in whatever the subject at hand is. And instead of being controlled or instead of kind of acting as kind of a part of the machine, now the person is participating. It's a collaborative exercise. And so the experiment that I want you to try is as you're closing out, or even now, if you're not working now, and you know that you're going to be working the future, take five minutes, pull out a piece of paper, or open your notes application, or you're to-do application, and pick two or three different tasks that you feel are top priority. The next time that you sit down to work, you need to get into those two or three different tasks. And now imagine yourself as kind of your future facilitator. Invasion yourself sitting in front of your computer the next time you are going to be working. And you're providing yourself that future you with options of what to do next. And the experiment is very simple. I want you to write questions for each of those tasks. And in that question, I want you to explain why that task is important. Explain the motivation for the task. And put each of those into a different question, and maybe two, maybe three, and write those down and then have it ready for your next work session. So when you open your computer for your next work session or you open up your notebook, you can read those questions. And immediately, hopefully, connect to the reason that that task exists, kind of the underlying motivation. And also, by giving yourself the option to choose between two or three different tasks, you're intentionally engaging in a different way. Now, contrasting this to our normal way of dealing with tasks, often we look at a list of tasks that are predefined, all of the interesting information about that task was discussed previously. We haven't really been reminded for the reason for that task to even exist. And we're looking at that list and we're saying, okay, which one of these feels like it's the most important. And we're also fighting ourselves, which one of these do I feel like doing right now? And there can be a sense of shame when we choose to do a task that we feel like isn't really important. And so we're still acting with some sort of autonomy, but instead of it being an empowered kind of autonomy, we are kind of acting out of this procrastination and out of this bent of defiance. So the goal of the experiment is to determine, does this help you feel more energized and empowered to do the same work that you already know needs to be done? Now the result of this, if you feel more energized, if you feel more empowered, if you feel more connected to the work that you're doing, you will perform that work differently. The result of this is higher quality work. And it's often also going to be a more efficient kind of startup time, right? You're not going to sit down and have to wade through a bunch of stuff. You can read these meaningful questions that are intended to provide you with the autonomy that you need, that you naturally need as a human and guide you down pathways that are already prioritized. Now, of course, this isn't a proper experiment where we have a control group. Basically what you should be doing to kind of test this for yourself is, you know, manage your tasks the same way that you used to and write down how you felt about that management style for yourself, how empowered you felt or whatever metrics you're trying to affect by going through this experiment and then run this experiment and compare how you feel in both scenarios. Like most self experiments, this is less about getting a perfect answer and more about constant improvement and small adjustments. Changes in the way that you view your work, no matter how small, these five minute changes can have a drastic effect on your outlook on the work that you're doing. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope that you'll take this experiment and also devise your own experiments using concepts, principles like our need for autonomy as humans to drive new behaviors, to drive educated guesses, to give you ideas for ways of improving. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you are enjoying today's episode and you'd like to hear more content like this, then I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you're using. Beyond that, you can also go and find other content for designers and developers like you who are looking to level up in your career. Head over to Spek was created just for that purpose. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.