No one is born productive. As much as we wished to walk around with an innate skill for accomplishing everything we want, productivity is something we need to plan and even train for. So what if we told you that there are certain steps we can all take to become more productive in our daily life? And that is there a common element these steps share which can be mastered by all?
It is highly likely that you will not learn how to remember a large number of details, consider all factors when making an important decision or how to solve intricate problems, without learning one important base skill first: how to focus. With so many distractions out there, all waiting to take bite after bite out of our attention spans, being able to focus has turned into a much sought-after art. Especially now, in the spring of 2020, when all of us are learning how to get things done in a slightly adjusted manner. However, this being 2020 also means that you can invest in physical tools (such as an office meeting booth or a phone pod) and in mental ones to build a set of habits that will support you in reaching the more focused state.
There are copious distractions in our lives. Not only the emails we have unknowingly subscribed to or the team updates that don’t need our fine approval. The blazingly written articles, flash live streams, the funniest memes of the century – they are all there, messing with our ability to stay focused in already noisy environments. So how can we tweak our attention spans?
In order to improve that aspect of our life, we have to look into our habits. Habits can be anything from unconscious behaviours or emotional reaction patterns to putting aside 10 minutes to scroll our phones before stepping out of our office phone booth. Yes, that is a sweet time. But it is only truly sweet when you know it is not stealing time from anything else later in the day.
Your attention span is your closest supporter when it comes to getting things done, so it does not come as a surprise that the link between excellence and the ability to focus is strongly recognised as the common denominator behind the majority of our achievements. (Check out this amazing talk by Daniel Goleman about secrets of high performance, for example.)
“Your attention span is your closest supporter when it comes to getting things done.”
Did you know that on average we spend more than 10 hours of our work week just catching up with emails? And when a notification pops up on our screen, it usually takes up to 25 minutes to regain focus? So this is the ground reason you should develop a stronger attention span: not only to reach your goals but also because your ability to stay focused is a limited resource that gets exhausted. And you want to harness that magic while it lasts!
Personal productivity comes down to habits. Think about your work day and see whether you can detect patterns which break up your focus during different times. As a next step, start changing them, one at a time, while trying both of the tips from the next paragraph. When you get them to work, they work like magic!
When you are able to focus, you are sustaining attention for longer periods. This makes you quicker, less stressed and able to perform better in any field. There is also a high chance that your memory improves, your anxiety levels go down and that you feel more energetic.
While mapping out your distraction patterns, it is worth paying attention to whether you get enough water, nutrients and exercise in your daily life as well. Distractions are costly, so the better your body is prepared to focus, the quicker your mind will play along. Here are our top favourite tips:
You need a shorter period of unfocused activities after a longer period of concentration. Our mind is like a battery, the unfocused time gives it space to recharge. A growing body of research indicates that we tend to work in cycles of 90 minutes. Tap into these cycles and enjoy those 20-minute stretches of lower focus time in between. If you have a soundproof privacy booth in your office, work from there during your first 90-minute cycles to fully get into the groove of things and eliminate all outside distractions.
Train your brain to do deep work. Set aside a few hours each day where you can fully use your brainpower without getting interrupted by anyone. Close the door to your room if you are working from home or book yourself a proper slot in the quiet phone booth or a meeting pod in the office. If your workplace still lacks an office booth, convince them to get one. The pod and booth sizes vary, so there is no need to worry about a specific fit for your office layout.
The time for yourself should carry the same gravitas as other meetings do, meaning you can only be interrupted if there is something of utter importance needing your urgent attention happening outside your door right now. Putting aside a specific time slot or using an office phonebooth also makes your work mates think twice before interrupting you with not so urgent requests. The visual distancing works.
You can’t have happy customers if your people are not happy first. Happy people are more productive and creative, more helpful to others and less stressed, making employee satisfaction a direct cornerstone of productivity and a strong link to increased profits. And happiness itself? Is not all about the salary numbers.
Money matters, but so does the feeling of being appreciated, from being heard at meetings to having suitable work conditions (like having a soundproof phone booth for office) and flexible work options. Therefore, an increased productivity is always a chance for growth.
A soundproof office booth can save the day when it comes to having more headspace, thinking bigger and analysing strategically. When we can focus, we can get more things done, leave fewer things to the last minute and make bigger breakthroughs. If everyone in your team can make the most out of those work conditions, it can give a full boost to the company and its profit margins. When your mind benefits, everyone and everything benefits with it. Silence truly matters.