The needle drops.
A jet engine roars.
“Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC, didn’t get to bed last night.”
So begins another day working from home for me, listening to my recently arrived original vinyl copy of The White Album by The Beatles (pricey but so worth it).
Listening to music has always helped me to be more productive and it’s something I’ve done in every job I’ve had so far, from the days of lugging a bag full of CDs and my Discman to the office to the simpler modern times of Spotify playlists on my phone.
Having collected records for a few years without ever really having enough time to listen to them very often, it was a huge opportunity to properly enjoy them while I worked. What I didn’t realise at first was that I’d actually accidentally found a new way to boost my productivity.
Listening to a record is a very different experience to a Spotify playlist, which can run on for hours (mine always do anyway) or even streaming an album. A record has two sides of music, so you need to flip it over after each side has finished, which for me means standing up as my record player is up on a shelf.
To use The White Album as an example, each of its four sides are 20-25 minutes long, so I’m working in short bursts with the music playing and then standing up for a short break to either flip the record or pick another one to listen to. If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably heard of the Pomodoro Technique.
One of the most popular time management methods around, it was developed by Francesco Cirillo and named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used as a university student. The Technique is as follows:
I may have accidentally started doing the Pomodoro Technique, but listening to The White Album offers four bursts of activity (or pomodoros), followed by a break and this is something I’ve been consciously working into my day.
What other tips are out there to make sure we’re staying productive through this extended period of remote working? Here’s some suggestions from Social colleagues about how they are making the most out of their remote working habits:
If you want to get something chunky done, block out at least half a day in your calendar, remove all distractions (switch off your phone and email), make sure you’ve been to the loo and your cat has enough food, ensure you have all you need in the room i.e. refreshments, notes etc. and then lock yourself away. Having that time without distractions allows you to focus solely on your chunky task and get into the flow state which is when you do your best work!
Create lists of every single task you ever need to do and prioritise them so you don’t have to remember each task and you can concentrate on the most important/urgent first. I use Trello to create numerous lists broken down into different areas of work and projects. I also have a list of people who I’ve asked things of and am waiting to hear back from them, which stops me forgetting.
I use my Outlook/Google calendar as a daily to do list. Each Friday afternoon I look through my bigger list of tasks and then plan them into my online calendar for the coming week. It’s like a game of Tetris, fitting each task in a space to fill each weekday.
That means that each Monday morning I can get cracking straight away. I know what I need to do and I do it without using valuable brain power on trying to remember what’s needed or who I’m waiting for things from. It’s all out of my head and online.
Obviously new tasks and meetings will come up each day, so you just need to play that game of Tetris again and put any new tasks into your prioritised list before moving things around so everything fits. Oh and make sure you always put in a slot for lunch!
“Exercising regularly! I know not everyone is a morning person and certainly not everyone would enjoy getting up before 6am to exercise, but I do! I have found that having a routine where I get up early and exercise before work really makes a difference to how productive I am. Usually I’ll get up and go to the gym, or if it’s not pouring it down with rain (unlikely this time of year) I’ll go for a run outside. I also make sure to take a walk at lunchtime, otherwise I start to get that dreaded cabin fever feeling from being in my little flat. As well as this, I try to make sure I get up from my desk at regular intervals throughout the day – my Apple watch definitely helps with this giving them that little nudge to ‘stand up’ if I’ve not moved for a while!”
For staying on top of tasks: I use this tool (which is easy to use and syncs across devices) https://todoist.com/
Routine: I have conversations in the morning and carve out time from mid morning / early afternoon to work when I tend to be sharper.
Watch distractions: I will turn off notifications and emails if I need time out to think about things or write as I am easily distracted.
Prioritise: Swallow the frog (do the task you don’t want to do first).
Finally, take a moment to recognise a job well done before moving onto the next thing.
Making smart use of Outlook – e.g. blocking out time for desk work/ planning to ensure this doesn’t get lost among virtual meetings/ calls (have to say this was a much bigger issue in my old organisation, which had a strong meeting-oriented culture!)
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