I’ve been thinking about the ways we work a lot this week. While each person has a unique way of doing things, the flip side is that more often than not we fail to recognize when something isn’t quite working. It’s rather amazing how even though we spend half of our adult lives at work, we may not actually know what is the ‘best’ or most efficient way to go about it.
This is exactly the place I found myself a few days ago. With a looming April 1st deadline for a manuscript I’m writing, finding time to make revisions and actually put together figures for the paper hasn’t exactly been the easiest. Time is available, but squeezing my writing into tiny pockets of time in between meetings, lectures and experiments is not exactly a recipe for accomplishing a whole lot. Which is why I was thrilled when I found myself with a single thing on the calendar this past Tuesday, a doctor’s appointment in the morning.
Once I got into work around 11 am, I had the rest of the day to work on whatever projects I wanted. I spent the first part of the morning doing my usual routine; responding to emails, taking care of some other administrative tasks, putting together my lecture for class. About a whole hour passed at my desk without anything really to show for it. I knew that this was the perfect time to get some deep work in but found myself fairly unmotivated to do so. The temptation to just continue plodding along on my computer was there but I knew that if I just squandered my afternoon, I would be fairly upset later on.
So I did something I have never done before and took a big piece of paper, pencil, and eraser and sat in our conference room, away from my desk and started drawing out the figure for the paper. I’m not entirely sure how long I was working on it because I lost track of time. I definitely entered into a state of flow as I worked on the drawing. This tiny change of scenery, from my desk to the conference room, literally 500 feet made all the difference in my ability to focus.
Once I made it back to my desk I thought how many other times would I have been able to really amp my productivity if I just went to a different place to work. It just never occurred to me to do so. I have my desk, all my files, computer everything is there so why would I really need to go anywhere else? Yet all of a sudden I was able to focus all my attention on a single project.
I’m not claiming to have discovered the magic bullet to combat malaise and procrastination at work, but there is definitely something to be said for changing up your scenery every once in a while to get re-inspired. Even if you can’t physically go somewhere else and cubicle it is, you can try to take a brief walk outside, or even around the halls of your building. Stare out a window for a little bit. Stimulating your mind by providing it just a little bit of change can truly be a difference maker.
I didn’t realize what an effect that little tiny decision would have on the rest of my week. I’m literally writing this post while sitting in the passenger seat on a short road trip with my husband. I would never even consider writing in the car but it’s actually such a perfect thing to do when all you have is three hours of staring at corn fields ahead of you. I’m enjoying my trip while being productive doing something I love. All because I switched rooms for an hour on Tuesday. Life sure is funny that way.