Being Productive At Work

Sunday, January 20, 2019
It's been a few weeks now since we all emerged from our holiday cocoons, squinting into the florescent light overhead and fidgeting with our non-elasticated waistbands, wishing for the return of our forgiving sweatpants. I don't know about you, but getting back into serious-business mode after such lovely, relaxed time away is always pretty hard for me. I'm easily distractible, a bit tired and longing for a responsibility-free life. Alas, I need to eat and pay bills, so it's back to the grind for me.

How I'm Staying Productive At Work

Make a daily tasks/goals list: When I drag myself into the office and the last thing on my mind is actually doing work, I've found that setting out a short list of things to accomplish by the end of the day gets me more in the mood to do things. Nothing too ambitious or I'll feel overwhelmed, and conversely not just a list of a couple tiny tasks or I'll breeze through it by 10am and go right back to feeling uninspired. I like to use Todoist to make my daily list, and even to organize bigger task lists for projects. The "karma" points you get for completing tasks and getting streaks of days meeting your goal makes it a little more motivating too!

Work some, then rest some: I tend to be the kind of person to get sucked into a task and forget about the rest of reality. I'd happily carry on doing whatever I'm doing, not thinking it's adversely affecting my work. It's only until I spend too much time thinking about something that after a short break I figure out in a few minutes do I realize that hey, maybe breaks are good even if you think you're in the middle of something. When I've got something big I need to tackle, instead of plowing ahead I break it into chunks and tackle it using the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes, take a few minutes of break, repeat three more times and then take a longer break. It's a great way to get a lot done but still give my brain a little break and time to dream about all those holiday cookies I'm missing.

Create a focused environment: I work in a fairly openish office, and my team's room is right next to a room where people are constantly making calls throughout the day, doing webinars or working on something together. Not to mention we're in a basement office under two restaurants that spend the mornings tenderizing meat right above us, rolling in carts of food that manage to sound like jet engines and cooking with gas from their squeaky gas meter. Believe me, I need all the help I can get staying focused. I throw on my big on-ear headphones to show people I'm trying to get some real work done and I either throw on an episode of Annie Mac's Friday night radio show or a dance station on Google music if I want some energy to get me through the task, or I'll open up Noisli, a customizable background noise app if I need to think hard about something. My favorite mix is a little thunderstorm, some crackling fireplace, and coffee shop. If I'm really trying to set a mood, I'll throw on BBC Radio 4 really quietly on top of that as well.

Reflect: On Friday late afternoon when I'm really dragging, I like to jot down a couple things that worked well or that I accomplished, as well as a couple things that weren't so great. Celebrating what I managed to get done gives me a little motivation boost, especially if I leave it where I can see it again come Monday morning. Analyzing what didn't go so well, and more importantly what were the reasons it was happening helps me recognize things to change or experiment with next week so I don't repeat my same mistakes.
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