In a shared office, everyone has his and her own methods for being productive. From to-do lists to time off, how do you stay dedicated when you’re at your desk?
We all struggle to stay focused at work. Research suggests that the average adult attention span now languishes a dismal eight seconds – a concerning decline when you realise the UK has one of the longest working weeks in Europe. In London, the hours are even longer.
In sociable shared offices, tantalising distractions are never far away, although it’s the vitality of co working that so appeals to self-motivated, self-starters who eschew the lure of Facebook and Mail Online in pursuit of their goals. Mostly…
OK, we all need some help to stay focused. Fortunately, there is a wealth of technology and techniques that can help.
The classic and arguably the best, the humble to-do list is achingly simple: identify your tasks. Write them down. Work through them, crossing each one off as you go.
Don’t write your list on the back of a napkin, or use one-word prompts – ‘coconuts’ seems obvious now but you’ll be stymied tomorrow.
You can turn your to-do list digital with an app like Evernote but there are few things in life more satisfying than crossing an item off with a pen.
Try it if… You have more than one thing to do, which you will, so go and write a to-do list immediately.
BACKGROUND NOISE APPS
If you find music too distracting (attention grabbing lyrics; loud beats; the heartbreak of having your ex’s favourite song pop up in your playlist) then a background noise app could be the solution.
Noisli, MyNoise and A Soft Murmur all play a variety of soothing sounds from train tracks to coffee shop chatter. Noisli lets you customise the noise to create a perfectly productive soundtrack.
Try it if… You don’t mind the intensity of listening to white noise. Anything past 20 minutes and it can feel disconcertingly like you are being held prisoner by the SAS. Opt for wind rustling in the trees, babbling brooks and birdsong.
Stand-up desks are especially well suited to shared offices where desk spaces needn’t be uniform There are reported health benefits too: standing up for four hours, five days a week burns roughly 650 calories.
Try it if…You don’t mind sticking your head above the parapet. Standing up whilst everyone else is in your shared office is seated does make you conspicuous. As long as your office permits them, standing desks can improve fitness and outlook and reduce backache, depression and weight gain.
Me (on any given day): OK Brain, we have to work now.
Brain: But I don’t want to. I want to get deeper into this thread about celebrities that died in mysterious circumstances and see where I end up.
Me: Agh, I want that too…but NO! We have a deadline! OK, here’s the plan: one hour of solid working, then it’s internet galore.
Brain: (sulking) FINE.
If you’ve ever found yourself bargaining with your own brain about knuckling down to work, try a power hour.
It works according to the same principles as the mind-tricks your parents played on you as a child: do this [boring/long/difficult] thing and when you’re finished you’ll get a [gold star/biscuit/pony].
Try it if… You wish your mum was hovering over your desk holding a stopwatch and a packet of Hobnobs.
Set a timer and work your socks off until the alarm goes off 60 minutes later.
ONLINE TASK MANAGERS
Small business owners need to be hands-on managers – leaving less time for their own workload. Why not automate the process? Task management systems tell everyone in the team what they should be doing and when, and tracks progress. You can also use them to communicate instead of endless internal emails.
Try it if… You like everything in one place. Or you like to know how your team is doing. Or if you like to be productive – or if you like free stuff. Most of the software is free to download.
Dapulse is great for visual workers and learners. Smartsheet takes inspiration from good old Excel for anyone who loves a spread sheet. Asana comes in web and app form and allows a team of up to 15 to join for free.
TAKE A BREAK
Wait, come back! Read this, then take a break.
Regular, purposeful breaks help to combat waning attention. This doesn’t mean jumping up from your desk every three minutes; twenty minute breaks every couple of hours are more productive than struggling on.
Try it if… You get stiff and achy sitting at your desk and wouldn’t mind a brew, or you find yourself drifting towards Facebook…
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, congratulations.
Now, how did you do it?
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