“STOP TRYING TO FORCE AN OUTCOME - GIVE YOUR MIND THE SPACE TO DRIFT ELSEWHERE.”
We’re in a wet and wild January. I’m in between meetings, there’s nowhere nearby to work from and I’m too far to drive home. Living by the sea is one of the reasons I chose to work for myself. I pack a backpack with my laptop and paperwork, Bernadette grabs her surf board, and I settle myself on the sand or cosy up in a beach café. But not today. I'm fighting the urge to check my phone and its inevitable internet spiral - baby otters playing with stones are damn cute! So here you'll find five ways that help me be more productive when the need for a distraction kicks in.
What do you do when you're stuck?
Stuck on a train. Stuck in a headspace. Stuck in a thought process that isn’t giving you what you need. With deadlines to meet, projects to progress and ideas to generate, it often feels as though we should keep doing what we’re doing. Otherwise we won’t feel like we're doing what we're meant to be doing. But that’s not always efficient.
If we can notice how we work, when we work on certain tasks best, and how to regain our focus then we can be more flexible - and more productive.
How did I get unstuck from my meeting limbo? I drove to a spot with a view, left my phone in the backpack and propped my laptop against the steering wheel. With no internet to drag me away, I began to type this article. The car park became a more regular office last summer when the mermaid was out surfing. The rain and wind would set in, the cafés were too busy to get a table and I couldn’t head home. With the heater on my feet, I'd crack on. It's the ‘work smarter, not harder’ concept we hear about.
Here are five techniques to help you make better use of your time and work more efficiently:
CAUGHT IN A WEB
WHAT:Do you notice when you turn to social media or go online for a little distraction. Is it when you’re trying to wake up or during that post-lunch slump? Do you quickly scan your feeds, check the news and get back to it? Or find that 20 minutes later you’ve read IMDB’s trivia for each Buffy episode you’ve watched so far, found the perfect but over-budget Norwegian cabin holiday and watched otters holding hands whilst they float.
WHAT ELSE:If you’re in the mood to be online, stay online. But use it for research, inspiration, to make valuable connections or share sector news.
KNOW YOUR ZONE
WHAT:Are you at your desk when you’re making headway through your emails and lists? What about when you’re creating solutions or forming ideas? Maybe you're on the sofa, in a breakout space or working from your bed.
WHAT ELSE:When you need to get into a specific way of working or thinking, take yourself back to that space to help your mind refocus.
COFFEE SHOP STOP
WHAT:If you find that your colleague catch-ups, client meetings or freelancer-sanity coffee breaks with friends are impacting on your working rhythm, schedule them in for a time when you know you’ll be ready to switch tasks.
WHAT ELSE:If you regularly struggle to sit down and focus around a specific time, make that your collaborative time.
DON'T POWER THROUGH, POWER OFF
WHAT:You’re trying to force an idea, struggling to write, can’t concentrate but have a deadline. Pushing through it might seem like the quickest way to get to your end goal. But it isn’t.
WHAT ELSE:Stop trying to force an outcome - give you mind the space to drift elsewhere and you’ll feel more refreshed. Try these for a quick break:
– Close your eyes for a few minutes
– Take a moment away from your desk
– Fill up a fresh glass of water and drink it before you return to your desk
– Stare out of the window
– Tidy your workspace
– Go for 5 minute walk
– Meditate for 5 minutes (the Headspace app is fantastic for this)
Your thoughts might just settle and allow new ideas to come to light.
NOTEPAD NOT IPAD
WHAT:Having tech on hand makes life so much easier. But if you don’t have the creative freedom to easily scribble, sketch out or work through concepts that come to mind then you risk losing them only to try and recall them later. And if your device can’t be switched on then you’ll miss those moments when you are.
WHAT ELSE:Carry a small notebook and pen with you. Keep another out at home too so you can capture those washing up, shower and teeth brushing epiphanies as your mind is drifting.
Those are my favourite suggestions to help you use your time more wisely. Do you have your own techniques or work well somewhere that you’d have never expected? And get in touch if I can help you improve your efficiency further. Your project may even travel with me to the beach (or adjoining Pay & Display…)