I got up early today and started to crank out some work. I was motivated because today was a day I didn't have to speak with co-workers or talk to our clients. I could sit down and just get some stuff done. I came across a great talk by Jason Fried, the co-founder of 37Signals a company responsible for Basecamp and other web-based collaboration tools (we are happy clients of their software).
It really struck a chord with me that very few of us work in environments where we truly have large blocks of time to "get real work done".
Where Do You Go When You Need To Get Stuff Done?
Jason discusses the most common answers people give when asked "Where do you go when you really need to get something done?" He says the answers fall in 3 categories, a place or room, a moving object, or a time. For example, people will say a porch, a deck, a room in the house, or a coffee shop when addressing a location. They will also answer that work gets done on their commute, in a train, a car, or a plane for example. Finally, they will answer that the place doesn't matter as long as it's early in the morning, late at night, or on a weekend. Interestingly, people do not say the office during work hours.
The reason for our lack of productivity at work, Jason says, is because of involuntary distractions. He argues that in order to "get stuff done" people need blocks of uninterrupted time. The problem with most offices is that the day is filled with involuntary interruptions and most of the blame lies with managers and meetings. Managers and meeting create interruptions and distractions that take away from valuable work time.
What Can We Do About It?
I think most of us can identify with his observations. But the million dollar question is how can we make our work environments more productive places? Jason offers a few suggestions:
Schedule No Talk Thursdays - Take an afternoon one day each week where nobody in the office can talk to each other. Watch how much work gets done.
Utilize Passive Communication vs Active Communication - Passive communication include instant messaging, email, online collaboration tools, and texting. Active communication involves face to face meetings and phone conferences. The big difference is that active communication requires that you stop what you are doing to participate whereas passive communication can be addressed when you are ready. Using more passive communication tools allows you to work for longer periods, uninterrupted and then communicate on your time table.
Cancel Meetings - Meetings are a time suck. You aren't just losing one hour of productivity for a meeting with 5 people, you are losing 5 hours. The truth is that most meeting topics can be handled through a brief discussion with the necessary parties. Most of the time, everyone doesn't need to stop what they are doing at the exact same time to talk about the issue.
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