Don’t go to the office if you need to get work done.
Where do you go when you need to get work done? Do you go to a coffee shop? Do you go early to work before others show up (or stay late after everyone’s gone)? Do you go to a library? The interesting thing, as Jason Fried (2010) points out, is that most people do not say they go to the office when they ‘really’ need to get work done.
Isn’t that ironic? Weren’t these offices built so that people get work done — yet employees invariably say when they really need to get work done they go somewhere else?
One word: Interruptions.
When I was completing my masters degree, I committed to working a solid 50 hours per week. Mind you, I didn’t mean ‘just show up for 50 hours.’ No, it had to be 50 real hours of work. Full 50-hour study weeks went on for months, and I don’t think I’ve gotten so much work done than I did during those final graduation months.
But it left me asking this question: how in the world can I duplicate that kind of output if distractions riddle my life and attention only comes in 10 min shot glasses?
What does distraction in our work day cost us? This is the cost of interruption
In studies on the effects of workday distraction, it was found that:
For me, one of the biggest pains is the stress. You want to enjoy your work, enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. But when interruptions spill all over your work environment, stress rises, and with it enjoyment erodes. Not cool. Who wants to live like that?
When we need to get quality work done, it’s usually one of two things: A place or a time. For me when I need to get something done, the place might be a big collaborative table at a coffee shop. Time wise I get great work done if I start early in the morning, or if I begin an early evening. But the key is that no one should have access to interrupt me — if that’s good, I’m good.
I would also add, when I really need to hold myself accountable to get quality work done, I’d write an online commitment contract, committing myself to do x number of hours on said task. And then I spend the week calculating the hours until I reach my goal.
What’s your place or time to get work done? Define it for yourself so that you know how to access it when needed.
How to avoid interruptions and stay focused? Try these:
On the flip side, we all need positive distractions every 25 minutes or so to RECHARGE and SHARPEN our focus. As long as it doesn’t (a.) drag on and (b.) that the distraction is on the lower end of the work to distraction ratio, and (c.) so long as you can merge back onto the task highway at full speed.
Now your turn, where do YOU go when you need to get work done?
Founder and President of DiscoverU, an Islam-based personal development institute. Muhammad Alshareef graduated Islamic Law from Madinah University and holds a Masters Degree from West Virginia University. Canadian, ethnically Egyptian, and a true citizen of the world. He writes about Islamic solutions to popular personal development questions.