In this edition of Calendar Heroes, we talk to Chris Hunt, Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow, to learn about his style, tools, and methodologies for balancing priorities while collaborating on the dev tooling team for the community-led question and answer platform. Follow Chris on LinkedIn and at @LogicalDiagram with @StackOverflow on Twitter.
Calendar Heroes are real stories from very busy professionals across all types of roles and industries to learn more about how they manage to make time where there is none. We’re highlighting these stories to help share tips and ideas for working effectively, improving your time management skills, and boosting your productivity.
If you know a Calendar Hero who has awesome productivity hacks that you’d like to recommend we interview or want to be interviewed yourself, let us know! You don’t have to be a Reclaim user to be featured as a Calendar Hero: these stories are about anyone with an interesting approach to managing a complex schedule.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
My name's Chris, and I'm a Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow. I currently work on the developer tooling team where we handle anything that helps our developers create and deliver our products to customers. So, one day I might be debugging C#, and the next, building continuous deployment pipelines for Kubernetes. I've been with Stack Overflow for over three years, and have worked remotely the entire time.
What does a typical work week look like for you
As an engineer, I have the usual weekly meetings for work planning and team brainstorming. The coworkers I interact with day-to-day span about 10 different time zones, so scheduling options are pretty limited. This usually works out to me getting some heads-down time early in the morning, and again late in the afternoon. I try to carve out a couple of two-hour blocks a day to focus on project work.
What techniques do you use to manage your time?
One of the first pieces of advice my manager, Tom Limoncelli, gave me was to book a recurring event on my calendar to block off time for lunch. This sort of worked, but with the middle of my day being the best time to schedule meetings for our distributed team, meetings often ended up overlapping my lunch break anyway. Reclaim.ai made that lunch scheduling intelligent, so now if 12 PM gets booked for a team meeting, my lunch break might get shifted to 11 AM, and my calendar will remind me to take a break to eat before getting stuck in a few hours of afternoon meetings.
I also let Reclaim carve out those blocks of focus time. As an SRE, there is almost always some distraction from a person or system that wants attention. I’ve found it to be a valuable mind hack to have time on my calendar defined as project work, and give myself permission to ignore email and Slack for an hour or two.
What tools do you use to make you more productive?
I've been using Roam Research pretty heavily as my second brain — I use it to take notes, draft documents, keep to-do lists, etc. Roam is very low friction for capturing and organically organizing information.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
This advice came from a psychology study in 2017, so given that it’s backed by science, I think that makes it “extra good” advice. Buying things likely isn't going to make you happy. However, buying time can. I pay someone to mow the lawn because it means I get back a couple of hours a week that I can now spend with my family on the weekend.
Know what your time is worth to you and invest in it.