This is Part 2 of the 2-part series on How to be Amazingly Productive.
You can read Part 1 here.
If you would like to just see and go through the visual SlideShare presentation, please scroll to the end of the post!
Now moving on to Part-2:
8. Creatively Productive Work Spaces
“We’re trying to push the boundaries of the workplace.” – Google spokesman, Jordan Newman
What does your workspace look like? Do you get your best work done if it is cluttered or if it is neatly arranged? Does it reflect who you are or does it make you feel like something is amiss?
It is well known that environment is very important in creativity and productivity. Creativity researcher Dr. Tina Seelig of Stanford describes in her book, InGenius, that her model of creativity and the Innovation engine is the interlocked relationship between habitat, imagination, resources, knowledge, culture and attitude.
Habitat or environment plays a big role in inspired productivity. If you tell people what to do, place them in uninspiring work spaces and give them big to-do lists, will they be inspired and display enthusiasm to complete their work?
In some of the most highly productive and innovative companies, workspaces have been recognized to be vital for the continued creative and inspired productivity of the organization.
The philosophy at Google is collaboration and innovation and their workspaces reflect that aspect of the company ideology. They make it very easy to talk and cross-pollinate ideas.
Engineers get to design their own work desks or spaces from what sometimes looks like big tinker toys. Workspaces of employees are highly varied ranging from standing desks to attached treadmills and employees are allowed to express themselves by doodling and scribbling on walls. You can read the NYT article here.
The Google office in Chelsea is on one floor for everyone to interact and mingle and ideas such as the Google art project emerged from there. The art project is putting works of art online for everyone to enjoy. Google is famously known to have slides, phone pods, secret reading areas, Lego play stations and other fun elements that makes productivity easy, inspiring and interesting.
In IDEO, one of the most innovative firms, workspaces are designed to facilitate employees to easily collaborate, improvise, build, and iterate. There are carts with materials and objects of all types to quickly prototype an idea. There are whiteboards and stick-it notes everywhere to engage in innovative brainstorming.
What does your workspace look like?
Does it reflect your personality and allow you to be effortlessly productive or does your workspace resemble a maze that you do not want to navigate?
Take a few moments to reorganize your workspace, declutter it if needed and add elements that inspire your productivity and make it inspiring.
Pay attention to various elements of your workspace such as color, tools, music, and clutter. Do the various elements inspire you to be happily productive?
9. Increase Productivity by Scheduling and Taking short Breaks
What does your productivity look like? Do you begin working and continue working for extended periods of time without taking breaks and small interruptions? We seem to have the perception in society that people who take short breaks are slacking in their work.
People who sit at their cubicle for hours and keep working at it are looked at with awe and respect. But does the research support continued and extended work productivity?
A recent study in the journal Cognition at the University of Illinois at Urbana Campaign by researchers Dr. Lleras and Dr. Ariga attempts to answer the question whether breaks are essential or detrimental for keeping us focused on a task.
When we do a task that needs our attention for prolonged periods of time, you may have noticed that it gets increasingly difficult to stay focused. However, our continued focused attention is essential for the successful completion of a task.
Many studies have shown that our performance on tasks needing focus or vigilance show a decrease over time or “vigilance decrement.”
The study used four different groups to test their hypothesis. They hypothesized that taking short breaks will lead to a better outcome and assist in the continued focus of the prolonged vigilant task.
The four groups were asked to perform a 50-minute task of detecting shortened lines with or without breaks. The control group performed the task without any breaks. The switch and non-switch groups were shown 4 digits prior to the task and asked to memorize them (memory task) and told to respond if they saw the digits on the screen.
Only the switch group was presented with the digits or the break during the 50-minute task. Both the switch and the non-switch groups were made to recall the digits at the end of the task. The last group was shown the digits but was told to ignore them.
Astonishingly, the switch group performed the best and avoided the vigilance decrement. The other groups showed a steep decrease in their performance over time.
The study indicates that taking short breaks or brief diversions from a task increases focus and hence the productivity of a task.
If your work involves continued periods of attention to a task, you increase focus and productivity by taking short breaks or brief diversions.
Work intensely for a certain period of time and then take a very short break, move around and divert your attention away from your work before getting back.
10. Take a Walking Meeting: Productive Change of Surroundings
We may have an idea of productivity that we need to sit at one place and work away and produce amazing stuff. But that is hard to achieve because of the monotony factor.
Since most work involves some personal initiative, creativity and trying to solve problems using your unique set of structures and skills, what you have at hand may soon become repetitive.
Changing the context or surrounding is a great way to inspire creative productivity and infuse your work with much required fresh air. In Persuasion expert, Dr. B J Fogg’s tiny habits program, change of habits is facilitated by tiny actions and a change of context or environment.
I believe that changing the environment is a wonderful way to inspire and supercharge your productivity. It is no surprise that IDEO, one of the most innovative companies in the world uses this principle continuously. Workspaces are constantly changing and environments are remodeled to reflect change and stimulate innovation.
In fact, if an employee goes for a vacation in IDEO and comes back, they may find their workspace moved to a new and innovative area. One employee returned to find his workspace moved to a van in the middle of the company where he proceeded to work for a while. The van is now used as a meeting room.
In Business Innovator Nilofer Merchant’s TED talk, she explains that a small idea has a big impact on your health and life. She suggests that the next time you have a one-on-one meeting, make it a walking meeting and allow the ideas to flow as you walk.
She suggests that not only is this great for health but also great for generating great ideas and increasing productivity in a meeting.
If possible, change the surroundings and context to enhance innovative productivity.
Increase productivity during a one-to-one meeting by taking a walk and generating some great fresh ideas.
11. Detach Yourself From the Outcome
Are you so invested in the outcome and the metrics and charts of your work that you are unable to focus on doing other projects and tasks?
Ancient Indian wisdom teaches us that we should not hesitate to take action and do our very best work. But once that has been accomplished, we need to relinquish our attachment to the work.
If you are a farmer, you sow seeds and take care of your fields but the fruit of your action is beyond your complete control. If you obsess over the outcome of your work, it becomes just another distraction that prevents you from doing your best genius work.
There is much wisdom in letting go of attachment to the outcome. You worry less and get a lot more productive with all the other tasks and projects that you are doing. Every bit of worry that you waste mental CPU cycles on is resources that you could use in your work and reap the benefits.
In Tibetan custom, elaborate mandalas or multicolor designs are made painstakingly for many days with colored sand. The final product is astonishing. However, after they have been completed, they are destroyed to depict the impermanence of life and the detachment that we need to bring to life.
Worry less and do more.
Become detached to the outcome of your work and spend the mental energy on another project that needs your attention instead of pointlessly worrying about the outcome of a project.
Focus your time and attention on what you can do, improve and improvise. Let go of obsessing over the outcome of a project. Instead of worry, focus on making your work more amazing from feedback.
12. Eliminate or Minimize Excessive Distractions
We have already seen how small breaks between tasks that need continued focus increase concentration and facilitate focus and productivity.
However, if we engage in distractions so frequently that we are unable to focus on creative productivity, it may be time to reduce the distractions.
Uni-tasking can be mindful, engaging, inspiring and highly satisfying.
Doing just one task at a time heightens your chance of getting into a deep focused state of flow. Positive psychology research indicates that one of the factors of happiness is the ability to immerse into a state of flow in work and increase the incidence of such events.
You may have entered into that amazing state of flow at some point in your life.
According to Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from his wonderful book Flow:
“Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work is dissipated. We create ourselves by how we use this energy. Memories, thoughts and feelings are all shaped by how we use it. And it is an energy under control, to do with as we please; hence attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.”
Professor Csikszentmihalyi’s research suggests that doing what you like to do, developing high skill level, working at a high difficulty level or with challenges and being completely involved or focused causes the flow experience in our work.
Flow states are intrinsically motivating because of the happiness and contentment generated and can inspire us towards great and meaningful productivity.
Attempt to do tasks that you like to do and believe that you can do and eliminate excessive distractions in order to focus and uni-task.
Work on increasing skill level and take on challenges that make you practice at the edge of your ability to facilitate a deeply satisfying feeling of flow.
Increase the incidence of such flow events to intrinsically inspire your productivity.
13. Productivity Fostering Habits and Tools
Productivity is a process that needs a structure with different elements and pieces that fit together.
Framework: What habits do you have in place that support your productivity?
Do your habits support your productivity or do they subtract from your productivity? Even though you may be tempted to analyze small portions and reasons why you are not being productive, realize that all these parts fit together to give the whole.
You need to establish first what the parameters and rules are for your productivity framework.
What are the rules and conditions of your framework? And what are the different elements and aspects of your productivity structure? What are you trying to bring together or synthesize and what is the process or journey that you choose to take?
Do you have the right tools to get the work done or do you adhere rigidly to your idea of the best tools while the world is adapting to more effective tools?
You need to be able to channel your productivity and energy into a meaningful framework where your work is recognized and supported. Support is vital to productivity. Creating support systems to fall back upon when you are failing or need some direction is vital.
Attempt to look at productivity as a forest and as a process with a framework instead of a tree or an individual element.
Set up your support structure, establish favorable habits and make sure you have the right tools to foster and increase productivity.
Last but not the least, one of the most important elements towards happy and inspired productivity is the level of engagement that you are able and willing to bring to the table.
Are you willing to give it all you have and willing to go the extra mile to get the work done or are you going to quit and become demoralized at the first signs of failure.
Failure is inevitable but if you allow it to crush you, you give it greater meaning and power. However, if you are willing to engage the problem with enthusiasm, If you are not caught up with the perceptions and assumptions and perceived shame associated with failure, you give wings to your engagement and super-charge your productivity.
Bring enthusiasm to your work and be willing to engage the problem.
The level of inspired engagement that you are able to bring determines your ability to succeed through failure.
Do not allow failure to crush you. Instead change the meaning that you give failure and turn up the volume of enthusiasm and inspired engagement.
Here is a summary of the 14 Ways:
Now over to you! What do you think of some of the ideas in this article? Please let me know in the comments below!