An Advent series

So here's a challenge for me to finish the year - one blog per day throughout advent! It's a leap of faith but this blog has been neglected for too long so I will clear out some of my backlog and cover thoughts on Digital Workplace, Digital Homeplace and some of the places that Microsoft 365 helps to fill that out.

Leap of faith

My first post is on focus and productivity. I have written before on open plan offices and the trade off around productivity and collaboration. What are the tips that I use to stay focused?

Three tasks per day

I wrote previously about my PowerApp to focus on three tasks every day and I still use this technique although slightly adapted to use Microsoft To-Do now. Before the daily stand-up, I will note any meetings I have that need work before them as a priority and any deadlines that are due that day. Then using To-Do's built in "My Day" function, I can set aside a realistic set of three tasks and tick them off as they are done. I set them in priority order and add a couple of nice-to-haves after those. The nice-to-haves should be something that's a benefit that may get you ahead but not necessarily something that will be top priority the next day. Sadly blog posts usually sit in this never ending bucket!

Noise cancelling headphones

The benefits of an open plan office are over hearing what is happening and getting a greater understanding of what others are doing. However, there are times when you just need to get on with things. I am often lead off to other minor tasks when I hear others talking about something and my mind gets distracted by thinking about their issues instead. My Bose QC-35 IIs let me focus on one thing, usually with some great repetitive classic dance music (Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx and Orbital are favourites here) or even something heavier (Pantera, Slaves, IDLES) when I need to get a move on. Tailor the music to the mood but I find that something less hummable along to keeps me focussed on the work.

Make the most of travel time

Time in the office is usually not great for catching up on the latest news and in a cloud focused world where things are moving faster than ever, keeping up is essential. To balance this out, I use my commute to and from work to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. These help me with distraction from overthinking my current project and encourage the brain to have some balance.

My first recommendation from these is the book Organised Mind by Daniel Levitin, talking about information overload and how to deal with it. There are so many great topics in here about how the brain works and how you can trick yourself in to doing the wrong things that I will be picking up a whole blog on this later. Definitely worth a read or listen.

I've also enjoyed:

And some podcasts (which I use Podbean on the iPhone for):

  • Microsoft Cloudshow
    • I love these two, just casually chatting about the latest Microsoft Cloud news, keeping you informed and entertained. Definitely my top pick
  • The Intrazone
    • Chat and discussion directly from the SharePoint team and their good friends
  • Microsoft 365 Developer Podcast
    • After a brief hiatus, Jeremy Thake has re-invigorated it brilliantly, bringing a heavy Microsoft Graph slant and great guests
  • .Net Rocks
    • Really broad set of subjects that keeps me informed in the latest dev ideas
  • The Future of Work
    • Moving away from the technical side, this gets you thinking about applying the technology not just using it for the sake of it - Jacob Morgan is a very interesting character with some great connections
  • Desert Island Disks
    • a reminder about what is special in life


You cannot be productive without looking at how you haven't been productive. Look back once a month at what you have achieved and, more importantly, what you haven't been able to achieve will help you to understand yourself better. Looking inwards at what you have done and empathising with others so that you can understand why they may not have been able to work well with you will make sure that you always improve.

Taking a break and enjoying the family

I will finish off with the most important one, especially for those with partners and kids. Take time to enjoy them. Stop working, put down the phone and do some Hot Wheels, Scratch Jr or watch a dance class. Talking of which, I'm off to help build a Hot Wheels timer with a Raspberry Pi and Scratch!