The busier we are the better. Surely yes? Well, actually the answer in reality is more than likely a resounding ‘no’.
For sure, each day we rush from meeting to meeting, spend an extraordinary amount of time reading and responding to email, answering the phone and advising colleagues whenever they come up against the next problem. But is this really the best use of our time?
One question that I like to ask my clients is this. Are you allowing any time for ‘deep work’?
By ‘deep work’, I am referring to the type of work that requires real, focused cognitive concentration. This is the type of work that is truly meaningful to both you as an individual and also to the business that you work in. Its not surface level or superficial but rather something far more profound and impactful. It is the type of work that removes us from ‘fire fighting’ mode to instead a mindset of quality and strategy.
Begin by asking yourself what your own individual key strengths are and what real value you can bring to the business that you work in when there are no limitations or distractions placed upon you.
You should then audit your actual working day and week in terms of how much time specifically you spend on using these strengths and values in a deep and focused way to fundamentally contribute and improve the business? Its likely that you may not have a lot of time for this type of ‘deep work’ at present and if so, it wouldn’t be surprising if you are already experiencing a level of frustration.
If this does apply to you, then here is a possible solution. Firstly, schedule specific time within your working day/week for ‘deep work’. Block off 30, 45 or 60 minute periods specifically for this purpose. Put your mobile phone on flight mode and log out of email. If you have a landline, take it off the hook. Inform your colleagues that you will be unavailable during this dedicated time for ‘deep work’. One individual client of mine who works in an open plan office space with others, places a ‘deep work’ teddy bear on her desk at periods throughout the day which clearly communicates to her team that when teddy appears that she is engaging in ‘deep work’.
In terms of when best to engage in ‘deep work’ its worth considering your natural daily rhythm. Research has shown that each of us typically goes through a number of phases including peak performance, to then dip and on through to a recovery phase throughout the day in a cyclical way. For example, you may have noticed that for some, high levels of energy in the morning, where others ‘come alive’ later in the evening.
Take the time to figure out your own cyclical rhythm and arrange your ‘deep work’ when you feel energetic and focused. Leave responding to email, group work and meetings for those times when you dip/recover as they are usually less cognitively demanding and the energy of others will help counteract your own fatigue a little.
In addition to the points above about busy work and ‘deep work’, here are two short time management tips which when combined together should support you in being more productive in the workplace.
The two minute rule means that where you can complete a task within two minutes such as answering an email then do it straight away rather than putting it off until later.
The five minute rule applies to those tasks that you have been putting off. Beat procrastination by committing to just five minutes work on the task that you have been avoiding. In reality once you have completed five minutes, its likely that you will spend even more time on it!
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