Productivity tips to get out of the office
Take it outside: Productivity tips to get you out of the office and into the sun
Words— Alison Robins
Spring has finally sprung and summer is in tow, but while the seasons pleasantly change, your 9-5+ work hours may not. Whether you’re a freelancer or a full-time worker, we’ve put together five simple yet effective productivity tips to help you finish up your work so you can get out of the office and enjoy all that this season has to offer.
Why is being productive so hard?
There’s no real short answer, to this but simply put, we’re knee-deep in a technological revolution where much of our days have become either distracted by tech or automated by it. Our world is “cluttered” with pings, beeps, reminders and notifications, all amounting to a benign addiction to “checking in” on whatever social channels we’re part of (be it Facebook or Slack).
We are a plugged-in generation, whether or not we’d like to admit it. So much so that even when we put our devices away, we’re likely still thinking about what’s going on. This “virtual fomo” has become the driving force of our procrastination. How can we focus entirely on getting a task well done when our head is distracted in the “cloud”?
According to Calvin Newport, author of the book Deep Work, “Anecdotally, it seems like most people experience a 50% drop in productivity and cognitive capacity when in a state of distraction.”
Follow these 5 productivity tips below to get your work done well, so you can get out of the office and soak up the sun while it lasts. Spring is the season for all sorts of goodness - don’t miss out!
Follow the Two-Minute Rule
From David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, the premise of the two-minute rule is that if something takes less than two minutes to complete - like washing a dirty dish - then just do it to later avoid a sink-full. In professional terms, if you want to leave your to-do list a little less meaty at the end of the day, take care of the quick and simple tasks as they come in. This doesn’t mean interrupting a working session or risking quality, but if an email comes in while you’re twiddling your thumbs or your boss passes by with a quick request - don’t write them down on your to do list. Get it done then and there! You’ll thank yourself later.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
Developed in the 1980s, this popular productivity technique suggests working in intervals of approximately 25 minutes, then taking a short break of about 3-5 minutes. After you do this four times, take a longer break of about 15-20 minutes. Our brains can only function in full drive for a certain amount of time, so pushing it further to work longer does not mean that you will work better. In order to work “smarter”, plan shorter uninterrupted stretches of time.
Call shorter meetings
We have the tendency to book work meetings for either 30 or 60 minutes - but do we really need this much time? Sometimes booking too much time prohibits you from getting things done. It allows for too much thinking, talking and reflecting when in reality if you had 20 or 40 minutes you’d feel more compelled to get to a solution faster. It’s like taking a check-in luggage on vacation. The bigger the bag the more you end up packing - but we all know we’d be just fine with the carry on. On another note - make sure there is even value to you being included in this meeting, and learn to say no if you feel it’s not the best use of your time. There are only so many hours in the day. Make them count!
Use your commute
Instead hopping onto social media as soon as you hop on the bus, why not use your travel time to make a dent in your emails, check what’s on the schedule for the day and get your thoughts organized. This will work in your favour twofold.
when you arrive at work you’ll be two steps ahead of the game. We often take longer than necessary to settle in and we “prepare to tackle” our work instead of just doing it. If you delve in while you’re travelling, you’ve already set yourself up for success.
According to Time, “being connected all the time is a lot like sugar: it’s easy for us to get accustomed to it and to want more,” so if you kick your craving at the beginning of the day by staying off social media - you may be less likely to stay focused on your work and not need your fix throughout.
Say goodbye to multitasking
There’s no such thing as multitasking; it’s a delusion. The truth is that you can’t do two things at once. Arianna Huffington calls multitasking the “enemy of creativity” and suggests that to do something well and right we have to give it our full, undistracted attention. Ultimately, multitasking “is attempting to do multiple attention-requiring tasks at the same time. Each switch in attention incurs switching cost, which includes a loss of time, decrease in performance, and an increase in stress levels.” What can you do? Turn off devices and even email notifications at your desk (especially during your Pomodoro time) and in meetings. Block off time in your calendar for certain projects. It can mean even physically removing yourself from a distracting area so you can get your work done without also having physical reminders of everything else you need to do.
Once you get a hang of using these tips they’ll begin stick - you just have to make a habit of it. It may be tough at first but it will all be worth it when you can leave work feeling accomplished and stress-free just in time for a cold brew on a sunny terrace.