I just cleared my desk and closed all my applications. I put my phone on airplane mode and disconnected myself from the internet. I even printed out a sign that says “please do not disturb” and placed it on my desk. I set a timer for 25 minutes and I have officially entered deep work.
Deep work is the work you need to be doing, completely free of distractions because it is just too important to be done without your absolute fullest of attention. No sounds, no slack, no customers or coworkers. No nothing. Just work. Extreme? I don’t think so. In today’s world maybe even necessary. Many of us get distracted easily, as I learned during today’s productivity workshop.
These days we are constantly stretched and pulled in different directions and continually interrupted by beeps and buzzers, and coworkers and bosses and friends and popups, etc, etc, etc. I say it is time to take back our time. Get things done, of course, just get them done on your own terms. You don’t have to be on slack 24 hours a day to show that you are “present” and “working hard”
On the contrary.
During the workshop, we shared and discussed 3 different popular methods for productivity which, in the end, we all pretty much decided were much too complex or way too inflexible to apply personally and to be successful. This would work for XYZ but not for MY job, was a common response shared today in the lounge. But we also decided there were a few very important takeaways which all three methods had in common. Tips we could more or less loosely apply to our work to become more productive, less distracted, and to hopefully alleviate some stress along the way. Here they are in no particular order:
Record and capture
Capture everything you need to do or think you need to do (preferably in one place and preferably in a place that is not your brain) Your brain is not to be trusted. Everything from big projects to teeny tiny little things. Use an app, use jira, use slack, use an ancient scroll and a feathered quill. Whatever works for you. Just collect it all.
Clarify and decide
What exactly is the task? Do I have to do something? Does someone else have to do something? What is the next possible action I need to take? Finish giant project is not the next task. Schedule project wrap-up meeting is.
Organize and group
Decide if it is something you can do right away (If it takes less than two minutes, do it and forget about it forever) Or decide if it is something you need to do tomorrow or at a later time. If you are not going to do it right now, make sure you know when exactly you are going to do it. Group things together — Make all your phone calls in one sitting. Respond to emails for 5 minutes every hour.
Reflect and review
Important step to follow if you want to continue to better your processes and to make sure nothing gets missed or left behind. Also helps you make sure you are not carrying around unimportant tasks which cause you unnecessary stress or take up valuable time and energy.
Just start doing it. Break tasks into smaller tasks. If those are too daunting, break them into even smaller tasks. Still overwhelmed? Break them down into tasks which take less than two minutes and just do them. Right now. Plan budget for 2019 = overwhelming. Create a new excel file, name it, and save it = manageable
Always ask yourself what the next action is. Having some structure will help you be more productive during working time and to use breaks for what they were intended, relaxing.
So what can we do with this information from the workshop? What is the next action? How can we take these tips and turn them into something tangible? These are the things I struggle with personally. I am not a productivity guru. On the contrary. That is why I scheduled the workshop today. In hopes to learn something myself. It is easy to have a conversation about something but it is often very hard for me to do something about it.
So I wrote the blog, to sum up, what we learned. And decided to challenge myself to create a new habit this week which will lead to better productivity. And I challenge you to do the same. Remember, new habits (at first) should take less than two minutes to do. You can decide for yourself but here are some suggestions…
- Do a 2-minute review at the end of each day before you go home
- Take two minutes in the morning to mentally map out your day
- Make a note of something that distracts you
- Make a note of something that brings you stress
- Be aware of your procrastination. What causes it?
- Take a two-minute break every day at the same time.
- Say no to one meeting.
- Make a do not disturb sign of your own and give deep work a try.
- The sky’s the limit
So… my 25 minutes of deep work is almost up and I am ready for my first 5-minute break. How do I feel? Good. Liberated even. I honestly feel more productive. My head feels lighter and I feel more awake. More relaxed. Less stressed. More in flow. Writing this post came with relative ease and I feel like a break is well deserved.
One thing I learned during the workshop today is that there is no right or wrong way to be productive. You have to find a method that works best for you and adapt constantly to fit your needs. We don’t have to feel like we are in the back seat. The more actions we take the more we can learn to work proactively and stop working reactively.