Ever felt over-distracted, overwhelmed and over-extended? Are you used to work at a light speed pace all day long, only to find that you haven't completed the most important tasks on your daily to-do list when you leave the office?
I felt like this once, I actually still feel like that sometimes. But when I feel like that it is simply because I drift away from my productivity rules applied after years of usual working habits and routines.
Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals makes a good point in his book Rework:
Work simply doesn't happen at work.
We are used to have employees going to offices each day. Buildings erected by employers with the expectation to make employees do good work.
But the truth is that if you ask someone: "Where do you go when you really need to get work done?” the answers will usually be: "In a café", "on the porch", "on my desk at home, late at night", "while commuting, in the train or in airplanes"...and so on. For my knowledge nobody answers: "In the office".
But why is this so?
Work has drastically changed in the last years. People are now constantly being distracted by far too many forms of communications: Emails, IM's, Conference calls, meetings, Tweets and so on. Gloria Mark, for example, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, found that the technology workers she studied would make it, on average, only 11 minutes into a project before being distracted. It then took 25 minutes to return to the task post-distraction.
People now are living in a state of continuous partial attention. And this state is simply toxic, for mind and body.
I am a technology and creative centric worker, for me focusing on my task vital. But to focus, you need uninterrupted time.
Work is somehow similar to sleep. You will never sleep deeply and charge your batteries efficiently if you keep being interrupted.
When I work, I forbid project managers. Meetings and managers are toxic. They are people paid to make sure you are working by making you stop doing so. It has no sense.
But how to fix this problem?
Start to focus more on the quality of your connections than on the quantity of them.
If you are a project manager or an employer, no interruptions is a perfect gift for your employee.
Favor Passive communications such as emails instead of active communications during work time.
If you need to really focus on a job, negotiate a work-from-home arrangement. The important thing is communication. Make sure they know how to get in touch with you - and be available. And most importantly, show results.
Distracting opportunities have to die for your most important goals to live.