July 11, 2020 · 6 min read
User Stories #1: Staying productive with Flow – Meet Juan
Over the past few months, we have received a lot of fantastic messages and feedback from our users. Many of them are developers, designers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs themselves. With this series of interviews, we want to highlight our users’ personal take on productivity.
Our first conversation was with Juan from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thank you for participating, Juan!
How about a quick introduction, Juan?
I’m a designer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I run a tiny remote agency with my best friend, helping startups build products and put them out there with UX Design and Growth Marketing. At 17, I thought I would become a giant software engineer and, obviously, a rich one. After about a year trying that out, I shifted to design school (just to try out something more “creative”). Lucky me, I had a whole year of classes on basic web design and HTML. I discovered how much I love design the day I saved that first .html file and opened it on a browser. Good times.
What motivated you to start your own business?
I honestly don’t know. It started out with two other folks who wanted to try it out and I thought “yeah, why not?”. I was 19 and working full time in a local design studio coding interfaces and full websites. I simply had nothing to lose, so I gave it a shot. Being so young and as I mentioned, having absolutely nothing to lose, I was able to just stick to it in the long run, and it started making sense after about 2 years of doing it.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Stick to the long game, and don’t try to come up with conclusions in days, or even months. Creating businesses will eventually make sense someday, and what you consider “success” at first might shift later on. You’ll come up with your own version of it. Having said that, avoid at all costs comparing yourself with other founders or businesses. If they make X revenue, forget about having the goal of reaching that. Make your own version of things and iterate and execute as much as possible. Last one and very personal, stay small.
Would you consider yourself naturally organized or productive?
Yeah, pretty much. I’ve been into habit building/incorporation since I started working full time from my house (late 2018). The first day was funny, since I woke up and was like “oh, so now I have to walk to my desk and just work?”. Eventually, I realised how important acquiring certain habits would be, and I started getting into a bunch of things, one at a time, and taking it very slowly. After over a year and a half, I now have a pretty specific day to day routine to tackle my days, doing things like waking up every day at the same time (same thing with bed time), meditating, reading non fiction early in the morning and fiction pre-bed, exercising daily, taking cold showers, fasting, drinking giant amounts of water (and pretty much avoiding caffeine), and experimenting with different diets for some monthly blocks. Right now I’ll be trying out the Keto diet for the whole month and see how I feel.
What are some apps or tools you use to organize your day?
I use Things for my day to day tasks, Asana as a team hub, pen and paper to write stuff down, take notes and plan my week, next to Fantastical (calendar). I run email on Hey to keep it simple and non invasive. For note taking, I have two tools. One notebook to write down specific stuff I want documented, and a tiny pad to write on the go and then throw those notes away after documenting them digitally, if necessary. Lastly, I organise my time with Flow doing work sprints with breaks in between.
If you could go back in time a few years, what advice would you give yourself about productivity and things you learned the hard way?
Be structured, but be flexible enough to have an on the go mentality when facing each day. Allow yourself to simply wake up and break your morning routine if your mind or body is asking for. I love habits, and I love sticking to them, but I find being flexible with them allows me to be happier and more relaxed. You have nothing to proof, so don’t try to impress people with your out of the world morning routines. Do stuff for yourself.
What’s one habit that makes you more productive during the day?
I used to work using the Pomodoro technique, but it stopped making sense fast. Now I work around 90 minute sprints, taking 20 to 30 minute breaks in between. I try to focus around one specific thing on each Sprint. Breaks could be getting away from the desk and check some email, social stuff or simply looking at the sky, and sometimes they could be going for a small walk. This definitely shifted my way of working and achieving focus.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your workload? If so, how do you handle this?
I sometimes do, and I do two things to handle this:
1. I design my whole week on the weekend using Fantastical, trying to have a vision of what’s coming ahead, like meetings and deliverables. This is the time I also come up with my sprints for each day, deciding what I’m working on, to understand if I’m prioritizing the right stuff or not.
2. Be honest with myself when it comes to assigning tasks. After a while, you totally realise how much you can get done in a day. If you keep overwhelming yourself, you’re simply lying to yourself. Take one thing at a time.
What are your methods for focusing at a task at hand?
Along with the 90 minute sprint thing I mentioned, the environment really helps. When I’m very relaxed and I want to stay in the flow, I put some lo-fi beats on the background using Spotify and perhaps even turn on some aromatic stuff. On the other hand, when I feel tired or like I need to chill a bit, I’ll crank up some rock or metal, like Foo Fighters or Kvelertak. Lastly, I’ll try to shift work spaces, abandon my workspace and take my laptop somewhere else in the house. Obviously, on any of the mentioned scenarios, I try to keep my phone absolutely away, sometimes even on airplane mode. Finally, I have email notifications off from Hey. I only check email twice a day.
How has Flow helped you in your daily life?
I was already using a tool to “track time”, but most of them focus around either pomodoro or giving you stats, to things I don’t care about. Flow has this thing that A) allows me to run Sprints the way I want to and B) it goes full screen when it’s time for a break. I absolutely enjoy the latter. It’s like suddenly a giant warning comes up and goes like “Hey Juan, time for a f*cking break or you’re gonna burn yourself out”.