Roger Ngo's Website

Personal thoughts about life and tech written down.

Building Better Work Ethic

I currently work at home full time. I also recently got promoted to a position where I am required to make some decisions on some of the business aspects of software development. Consequently, I am busier than ever and getting slammed with stuff much more often than before. Most days I am productive, but I have found that the time of year, the amount of rest I get the night before and my nutrition affects my concentration and discipline to actually stay focused while telecommuting.

Let me start out by saying, no matter how disciplined you think you are, you will always lose focus for a period of time.

Addressing the Problems

Time of Year

I moved away from Santa Barbara, where the weather was usually very mild in the summer to just outside of Los Angeles (inland) a couple years ago. Since then, I have realized summers can be brutal. Sometimes it can reach over 90 degrees. Since Southern California is in perpetual need of natural resources, I have tried my best to stay conservative and only use the air conditioner when it becomes impossible to live day-to-day life due to the summer heat. I have a room fan that is on most of the day, but it is more effective at night than the day.

I have found that HEAT is a killer when it comes to feeling energized for work. When it is hot, I just feel so tired and all I want to do is lay down. I realized that I am most productive in the morning from about 8 AM to 12 PM. These are the times when the summer heat is not as intense. Things become much more difficult after 1 PM when things intensify. I am about half as productive.

I have come to try and get most development and work that is dependent on my pieces by everyone else done during the morning. The afternoons are reserved for collaborating on less time-sensitive things and email.

Amount of Sleep

Seven to eight hours of sleep is ideal for me. Most days I only get about 5-6 since I tend to wake up frequently in the middle of the night. I do notice that when I do get a good night's rest, the day passes by faster because I am able to focus better and feel less sluggish from the get-go. This all leads to me working more efficiently and sometimes I even get ahead due to the the awesome productivity boost a good night's rest gives me.

Unfortunately, like I said before, most days I only get about 5-6 hours. So I see these "productive days" due to getting good rest is pretty rare. This is something I am trying to improve!

Nutrition

Eating a nutritious diet is key to feeling great. Lunch is an important meal. Depending on how in-tune you are with your body, this is something that can easily be addressed and solved. Personally for me, if I am not careful about the food choices I have for lunch or eat too much, I will have blood sugar fluctuations in the early afternoon. This makes me feel very sleepy no matter how much rest I got the night before. Eating a balanced meal with fruits and vegetables is important. They contain more micronutrients than simply going out to a fast food place for a quick lunch.

Since I work from home, I am able to cook meals for lunch. I usually stick to a protein and vegetables and eat JUST ENOUGH to prevent my blood sugar from spiking up and down. On days where I know I will work longer hours before hitting the gym after work, I will usually throw in a bowl of oatmeal (about 60g RAW) with sour cream to hold my stomach and give myself enough energy for a training session.

Possible Solutions

So here is what I plan to do to fix these problems that kill my productivity:

  • Weather is something I can't really fix. However, since I know there are times during the day where the heat isn't as intense to the point where it kills my concentration, I can rearrange the work that I do and push the more difficult and "annoying" tasks towards the morning so that I am less prone to feel even worse when I get to them in the afternoon when it is much hotter.
  • I usually sleep with my phone. I found that when I do wake up at night, the first thing I do is check my phone for the time. Before I know it, I am checking to see if I have any new emails. I know it is pointless to do so, but I do it out of habit. I should set a regular bed time for myself and sleep without a phone. I have done this in the past and it has worked out well where I am able to get 7-8 hours of sleep consistently. I only stopped because I felt like I needed my phone closer to be used as an alarm.
  • Nutrition is not much of an issue here. Since I am a regular gym goer, and have a huge interest in body composition + nutrition, I am well in-tune with my body when it comes to types of food that works well for me. The most difficult thing about lunch is that it is difficult for me to gauge what "hits the spot". Some days I am hungrier than others. When I become very hungry I tend to overeat and before I know it, I am feeling very tired when I am finally back at work for my lunch break. One way to solve this is to probably train my body to have regular meal times. My lunch time can fluctuate anywhere from 12 PM to 2 PM. This contributes to some inconsistent reactions that my body undergoes. A good start here would be to find a lunch time that works best for me so that I do not feel like I am too full to eat lunch and put it off or so I don’t get super hungry and over eat later.

A Bit Extra

Back when I worked at the office, I used to take daily walks after my lunch breaks. This helped restore my focus. I still do this when working from home but not nearly as often. Even just taking a quick 5-10 minute walk will be beneficial, so I can consider trying that too if I feel like I am starting to become sluggish after lunch.

Also sitting with a better posture will prevent my back from getting tired. I have noticed that my posture has been suffering lately due to ignoring my sitting position and hunching over too much. This has also started to affect my normal standing posture. Getting up and stretching for 5-10 min after every hour should be something I should consider doing once I have nailed out all the previous issues.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. These are the things that affect my daily performance. Though they are very general, it is easier to staxwrt out broad and drill down to find sources of the problems than to be specific early on. Sometimes we may completely miss things by doing it that way. If I find out that some of the solutions to the problem may not work, I may very well try to go in deeper to each of the problem and find out why something isn't working!