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Productivity, but not as you know it

New year! So that means new opportunities to be ultra productive, right? All you have to do is get up at dawn, cross things off your list and focus, focus, focus. But, let's face it, does anyone really manage to keep this going for longer than a few weeks? The internet kitten approach isn't for everyone. And while I'm definitely in favour of getting things done, I take a very different approach. Make yourself your favourite hot beverage, sit back and enjoy the read!

Not working like Dolly

First things first - we do not need to work like Dolly Parton from 9 to 5 each day. This just doesn't suit many people. I've always been a 'problem sleeper' and - since my days of overnight and early morning shifts at Gatwick Airport - I dislike getting up in the morning. In fact, it's more than dislike. Sometimes it actually hurts! Forcing someone who is definitely not an early bird to catch the worm won't lead to great things. It will lead to staring aimlessly at your screen, wishing you were back under your cosy duvet. There have been times in my career when I've had to commute to an office, but I'm much more productive now I can just stroll across the landing to my desk. I start work when my brain feels like it - usually after at least two cups of tea and a cup of coffee - and finish when I start to struggle. This makes my working hours much more productive and gives me a much more flexible approach to life. Still need convincing? The research is starting to show that flexible working brings benefits.

Background noise

The jury might still be out on this one, but I've always found that having some background noise really helps me to concentrate. This might be the radio - Woman's Hour is a great accompaniment to my first coffee of the day - or the TV. Maybe it's the lone working, but the noise helps me to focus on what I'm doing and can act like a comfort blanket, reassuring me that there are other people in the world! All the guides to productivity are clear about switching off distractions. But I know lots of people who work with the radio on, or even write with old episodes of TV detective shows playing, and find that background noise helpful rather than distracting. If it works for you, keep the noise going!

Procrastinating for productivity

Most guides to productivity will tell you to stop procrastinating. I disagree. And I'm not the only one. In his essay for the Wall Street Journal, Stanford academic John Perry made claims for the art of procrastination. And while I don't necessarily agree with his whole argument, I firmly believe that procrastination is what makes me productive. Most of the projects we get involved with require research, analysis and evaluation. This means a lot of time to think. Making connections, finding improvements and identifying opportunities doesn't come automatically when I sit at a computer screen. Instead, the project will have been whirring around in my head while I make the dinner, when I drift off to sleep (or try!) and when I'm sitting with my coffee listening to Woman's Hour. Staring into space doesn't mean I'm not doing anything. Pottering about the house can hide a wealth of great ideas that are bubbling away. And that means that when I do switch the computer screen on, I can be incredibly productive, because all the hard work has already been done.

If you struggle with the usual tips on how to be more productive, I hope these alternative ideas might help. At the very least, I hope you enjoyed your coffee!


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