Friday is here again, and I find myself reflecting on the past week. As a freelancer, my schedule is more flexible, and this freedom is a tricky business: some days allow for greater efficiency than others, to put it nicely. If you work or study from home, or find yourself job searching at a coffee shop or somewhere with a similarly cozy atmosphere, you’ll have an idea of what I’m getting at.
Some days, usually the ones fueled by coffee and a decent breakfast, my productivity level is very high. I can write for an hour, take the dog out, design a poster for a client, tidy the living room, make a healthy lunch, etc. On slow days, often when it’s very snowy and cold, it’s so tempting to stay bundled in a blanket deep into the morning. It’s easy to be distracted, as I so often am, even when I have the best of intentions. Most of us have experienced a similarly lazy day, even when a deadline is pressing into your forehead like the tip of an arrow, and so I want to pass on some productivity tips. Hopefully they’ll work for everyone, bloggers included!
The first step is to examine our habits and admit that we humans are easily distracted and easily disturbed. Case in point, my dog just decided he needed an extra dose of attention and laid his head on my keyboard. Well, that’s both distractingly cute and disturbing to my workflow. There goes five minutes. Had I been sitting at my desk instead of the comfy couch where the dog sleeps, I wouldn’t have been interrupted in the first place. There’s a situation that I can control and change. By acknowledging and assessing our habits and behaviors (even the embarrassing ones like raiding the cupboards a third time in search of a surprise snack—in case you missed it the first two times), we can see them for what they are. The next time you commence that old, familiar 30-minute coffee break, or stop working to check your fantasy sports team rankings, you’ll be more likely to notice that you’re indulging again. The more self-aware we are, the easier it is to see the value of just getting ‘er done. The work you’re putting off, that is, not the fantasy baseball trade.
Another tip that I’m almost surprised to see myself offering is to arrange to meet friends or colleagues. Yes, it sounds like a not-so-sneaky way to socialize during the work week, and yes, things can get out of control. I will always remember the futility of working with one of my girlfriends: we would waste hours of work time while our friendship developed—entire afternoons were spent in conversation, punctuated by Kraft Dinner and naps. But, when working with a colleague or friend who you have a history of working quietly with, you can make some serious headway while also allowing your brain to interact with another’s.
Socializing—especially if you work, study or job-search from home during the day—is vital to your productivity. We need to listen to others and talk to someone who isn’t a pet or our pajama-wearing reflection. Here’s a good example: in December, I sought some career advice from several successful publishers. Rather than meeting in an office or chatting online, we held our discussions in coffee shops full of hustle and bustle. We enjoyed hot drinks, listened to one another face-to-face and brainstormed. It was excellent! I felt extremely productive, due in part to the brilliant minds I was fortunate enough to meet with, but also because I was suddenly outside of my oft-isolated comfort zone. Frankly, I rocked it and found myself with renewed energy and new ideas for my craft. At least once per week, meet with someone who you can bounce ideas off of, who will help inspire you to work and think harder. Even if you don’t come up with any golden ideas, you’ll have benefitted from changing your environment and interacting with the outside world.
I hope these suggestions push you toward your goal of completing a degree, finding that dream job or building your future in general. Even the smallest changes in habit can result in extraordinary achievements.