Whether you work from home or in an office, there are many ways to improve your productivity without sacrificing quality. I am not suggesting rushing through your work or multitasking, as neither of these are viable solutions and will not give you anything of worth at the end of the day.
Extensive studies have been done on productivity in the workplace and they agree that everyone has a different way of approaching the task at hand. What may work for one person may not necessarily work for someone else.
The most important to remember is that we all, no matter our work style, need to FOCUS. There are many activities that can distract us from our work, most of which we do out of habit, such as; looking at our cellular phones or clocks, checking personal emails, or surfing the web about a subject that just popped into our head.
The best way to avoid these distractions is to remove them from our daily routines. We can schedule times throughout the day to ‘check in’ on our personal distractions. For instance, if you are in the middle of a work task and all of a sudden you get an idea for dinner that night, jot it down on a piece of paper and search the web for the recipe when you finish your task, instead of searching for it immediately and interrupting your workflow.
We all try to fool ourselves into thinking that we can multitask, we think we can do more than one task at a time, when in fact, our brain is not capable of doing this. The term multi tasking is actually a computer term that refers to the processor of a computer being able to perform multiple tasks at once. Our human brains do not work like a computer. We would more accurately describe what we are doing as multi-switching.
If you looked at my laptop at this very moment, you would see that I have four programs open right now. If we look at this situation currently, there is no way that I can work in all four programs simultaneously, I would have to switch between them all as I have one keyboard, two hands and my eyes are not stereoscopic (meaning that they do not work independently like a chameleon’).
Our brain takes in all of the stimuli from what we are doing via our senses and processes it so that we can understand what we have to do and instructs the rest of our body to carry out the task, whether it is writing, sports, assembly, typing, mathematics, etc. If I am writing a story about productivity (as I am) and I hear someone say in the background that they are having Chinese food for lunch, my writing process will be interrupted so that I can decipher what I just heard and maybe even decide if I want to get Chinese food as well.
When the brain is forced to stop, restart and refocus by rapidly switching between different tasks, we are splitting our attention and wasting time. This inevitably creates a consistent cycle of depreciating work quality. Psychologist David Meyer of the University of Michigan believes that rather than a bottleneck in the brain, a process of “adaptive executive control” takes place, which “schedules task processes appropriately to obey instructions about their relative priorities and serial order,” By prioritizing the tasks, the brain tries to maintain a resemblance of order, while having the ability to set aside unfinished tasks, allowing you to come back and resume where you left off.
Comfort is also a key to productivity. There are differences in what people like, temperature, noise levels, privacy, etc. Many people seem to be far more productive and creative when they are allowed to work privately and free from interruption. Personally, I like some background noise but nothing too intricate.
The bottom line is that we all need to slow down at little. Tackle ONE task at a time, remove as many distractions as possible, i.e. turn off your cellular, shut down Facebook, Twitter, personal emails, and close your door. Finish one task before beginning the next.
You will be pleasantly surprised at quickly you can complete your work and even produce a higher level of quality.