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I am a software engineer and I work on a broad range of things.
As a person I am a believer of a single-task per time than multitasking for various reasons including that it fits my style.
The issue is that I can not apply it in my daily work.
So usually I would need for example to fix and deploy something to some server which takes quite a lot of time which if I was focused only on that task I would just end up watching a screen of logs which is not really productive.
So I pick up something else to work on in-between and essentially start multitasking.
I would need to work on a part of a system but to finish completely what I need to do I may depend on someone else in another part of the system fixing or doing something and that person may not be readily available but e.g. in a long meeting or in a day off.
Hence I would need to partially do what I can and start something else.
In the end of the month I always finish everything that needed to be done on time and my question is not about communication issues or how to handle dependencies by others.
The issue is that it is only in the end of e.g. week or month as I see everything done I feel satisfied and productive but my day to day feeling as I am tackling so many unfinished items makes me feel drained and not happy seeing actual progress like I would feel by taking X finish it and moving to Y etc.
So my question is about work satisfaction and personal management.
I was wondering are there any techniques/approaches that could help me improve my day-to-day sense of progress?

closed as too broad by gnat, Dukeling, paparazzo, Snow, scaaahu Jan 15 '18 at 9:07

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Why the downvote? Is the question not fit for here? Does it need some improvement? – Jim Jan 12 '18 at 21:05
  • Yes your question is very vague and subjective. It's also badly-written and kind of rambling. Try to distil it into a minimal version. – smci Jan 13 '18 at 21:17
  • Do you want to a) improve your sense of achievement while multitasking on an unpredictable mix of tasks with unclear resolutions? b) document where your time goes better and when you are productive? (time-tracking) c) ask your management to change your workload for fewer interruptions? block off blocks or days of time (e.g. "I only respond to X,Y,Z questions on Tue and Thu"). d) delegate? e) have them hire an intern or junior person? What exactly is your preferred outcome? If c,d,e, gather solid data to make the case why they should. – smci Jan 13 '18 at 21:22
  • Are we talking about a transformation that occurs purely inside your head, in your time-logging, in your weekly schedule or responsibilities, in your job description? You need to clarify. Try the former before you try the latter. – smci Jan 13 '18 at 21:26
  • @smci: It is option (a). I was under the impression that the post specifically the ` help me improve my day-to-day sense of progress? ` is clear that it is option a – Jim Jan 14 '18 at 18:36
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As a person I am a believer of a single-task per time than multitasking for various reasons including that it fits my style.

You need to change what you consider "a task".

So usually I would need for example to fix and deploy something to some server which takes quite a lot of time which if I was focused only on that task I would just end up watching a screen of logs which is not really productive.

Why would you include watching a screen of logs as part of a task that you need to complete? The first task you've completed is to make the fix. The second task that you've completed is to deploy that fix to the server. The next task you will complete as soon as the deployment is finished is to certify the deployment happened correctly. So by breaking it up into three steps, you will get at least two things done today even if the certification will have to wait until tomorrow.

You aren't really working simultaneously on multiple tasks, just working on single tasks from different projects one at a time. Complete a task before moving on to the next task, but make sure that you haven't made that task larger than it needs to be. Chunking your work into day-long (or less) tasks is a good way to help other people see your progress as well as letting you go home at the end of the day knowing that you finished at least one thing.

You probably won't change the actual work you do, just the way you track what you do so that you will have a better idea of what you've accomplished in a day. Once you get in the habit of thinking of things as smaller tasks, it also gets easier to arrange what you do so there are fewer blocks. I struggle with this myself, and having a list at the end of the day of 5 things I finished instead of 3 projects I won't be able to get done for a week helps.

  • No I don't include watching a screen of logs as part of a task. I completely switch to another unrelated task while that process keeps on emitting stuff in the screen. And that other task might be temporarily blocked because a necessary colleague is unavailable so I switch to something else. So in the end of the day these 3 tasks progressed a bit and in the next days they will be done, but I can say hurray I finished X moving to Y until days later. – Jim Jan 12 '18 at 22:20
  • Hi @Jim - I think I need to make my point a little clearer. You aren't switching to an unrelated task, because the task that started the logs scrolling is already finished. You might have another task that you will do after that one that's related to what you've already completed. Do you see? It's just a change in how you perceive what "a task" is. You can't always chunk everything down to a day, but you can start recognizing the work that you have done as "finished" - it just depends on what you decide counts as "done". – ColleenV Jan 12 '18 at 22:24
  • I think I get your point. The task that started the logs scrolling is not really finished, because unless it completes I don't know if the task was successful or I need to fix something. But basically you suggest to break down this task into smaller bits. – Jim Jan 13 '18 at 10:53
  • Right - you probably won't change the actual work you do, just the way you track what you do so that you will have a better idea of what you've accomplished in a day. Once you get in the habit of thinking of things as smaller tasks, it also gets easier to arrange what you do so there are fewer blocks. I struggle with this myself, and having a list at the end of the day of 5 things I finished instead of 3 projects I won't be able to get done for a week helps. – ColleenV Jan 13 '18 at 13:01
  • Useful advice. One point is that sometimes I don't really know if there will be a need to switch tasks. E.g. a needed colleague might not be available for 2-3 hours due to important meetings he needs to attend. But that is not and can not be known to me in advance. Hence I would need to make up these subtasks as I go. Is that how you do it? – Jim Jan 13 '18 at 13:17

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