I know work isn’t always work. Work can also be what you do at home and not always at the office. But, with work, it can feel like work which at times it’s counterproductive in what we want to do or accomplish at that moment. So, how can we not feel like we’re in a slog? I learned from Bruce Daisley in The Joy of Work some things that might help. Some of which I’ve adopted myself.
Here’s the main three I think can help:
- How do we even get in the zone of productivity at the start?
- We can’t all work from home, but we can take our work away from the desk at work to try something different.
- Putting some fun into our work helps.
The best productivity happens in the spots where we’re free from distractions. Easier said then done when the most distracting thing we have fits in our pockets or is attached to our wrists. Turning Do Not Disturb on works for the electronic devices, but not for the humans that pop in to say “HI!”
Finding the quietest place you can is key. Plan to tackle the hardest work in those quiet places as they’re the most important to accomplish. Let people know you’re not going to be available for that first hour or two so you can get into the flow. That way they know what to expect. Your boss would respect a message from you stating the next hour I won’t be available because I’ll be working on the hardest deadlines in front of me.
“There’s nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas.”J.K. Rowling
We can’t all work from home. I count those of my peers that can, the lucky ones. But, we can excuse ourselves for a walk away from the desk or outside. If creativity just isn’t coming or focus is lost, taking a good jaunt is a great cure. Allowing our thoughts freedom to come out and move away from us is a great practice.
Take your work on a safari. If you can, do your most challenging work outside. Sometimes the fresh air can do wonders for productivity. Find your zen place on a bench. Science says this works. In one Stanford study, 81% of those people that took their work elsewhere like on a stroll mentioned above were found to be a lot more creative than those that didn’t. Help others do the same if you’re a leader of teams of people. Your next meeting with them you need to take on the road. Take it outside.
“Hurry anxiety” as Bruce categorizes it, is a stress trigger that affects our ability to be productive. Ever been in the spot where you’ve been updating your phone and you’re just sitting there picking it up every 3 seconds to see how much farther the update didn’t get? That’s the anxiety I’m talking about. Looking at the phone isn’t going to make it update any faster. Let it go.
This form of low grade stress is not necessary, yet we do to ourselves all the time at work. It doesn’t make us feel any better when at any time, always connected, we have the potential of our bosses reaching out to add to the task at hand we’re already feeling stressed about getting done on time. Stop checking that email! We respond to a typical 130 emails in a typical day at work. I can testify myself to that. Within waking up, I’ve already got before my first cup of coffee 20+ emails to read through and sort by matter of importance. Yuck.
We can lessen this anxiety thankfully. We just need to learn how to break the streak of putting ourselves under this anxiety. At the end of the day it’s choice to engage the anxiety or not. One way I do this is set dead zone time for nothing but day dreaming or breathing time. These are not long. Usually at the most 15 minute breaks to 5 minutes of mindfulness practice with my favorite mindfulness app. The point, we need to disengage from the anxiety before we can’t because we’re to deep. Take breaks after 45-60 minutes of focused work.
During those breaks, make sure there is not work relegated activity your engaging in. Have some fun. Set a timer and scroll through your favorite social app if that’s your happy time. For me, it’s grabbing my Switch and having a run at Ultimate Smash Bros. A typical match lasts any where from 10-15 minutes. And, it totally gets me into reset mode for returning from the break. It’s fun. It’s unexpected event in my day that I enjoy. It could be a favorite book you’ve been reading for you. Find that happy thing and do it for 5-15 minutes, then come back to the work.
All work and no play, makes me very unhappy. Work is physically exhausting and we take it with us everywhere we go. It’s hard to disconnect, but for better productivity at work, we have to. For the sake of doing our best work, we cannot engage it all day long. Working longer office hours does not mean you’re getting more work done. In fact, you’re doing less work and the quality suffers once you hit exhaustion level. Don’t ignore your signs of mental fatigue. Call it for what it is, exhaustion peak and time to shut the work down.
I set a calendar reminder for myself called exactly that, “shutdown” at least 30 minutes before the end of my shifts. My boss and everyone that shares a connection with my work calendar knows this is it, Shawn is out in 30 minutes so I might want to share what I’ve been waiting to share. When he’s at the end of that 30 minutes, he won’t answer it until tomorrow. This is 30 minutes I use to disconnect and pull myself out from the work so when I leave, I leave. Work will always be there when I return the next shift.
It’s time to develop a different kind of work culture. Being always on as well as always connected demands it if we’re going to be at our best when we are at work. Where we have time to prepare out of the gate with our best efforts, find different work centers to do our best work in, and realize through self-awareness when we’re fatigued. Putting our energy into the social aspects of our work can help. Working undistracted on our most important work and taking frequent breaks away from that work will help us to become happier as well as more productive.
It’s Sunday! You’re work week is about to begin. I hope this helps you get into that mindset you need to do something different with your work this week incoming. Have a great week and thanks for reading!