“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” — Alexander Graham Bell
There was a time when machines were good for one thing and one thing only. When Jack Kerouac wrote the first draft of On The Road, he typed it on a single scroll of paper, claiming that changing sheets in his typewriter would interrupt his flow. If changing paper was too much of a distraction, how would he have felt if his typewriter was pinging him with email notifications and social media updates every few minutes?
Computers and software today enable us to work faster than ever before, but they’re also facilitating distractions. Of course, procrastination is not a new obstacle — what’s different about our devices today is that they promote these distractions. These multipurpose machines have evolved to cater to the multiple desires, interests and roles of an individual.
Even when we think we’re being focused, there are risks. When writing a proposal, for example, it’s easy to quickly Google spontaneous ideas before writing up the findings. That’s obviously great in many ways, but are you losing your connected train of thought in doing so? Are our devices preventing deep thinking and extreme concentration, and reducing the space for thoughts to develop to a level where true innovation often occurs?
It is impossible for us to say which method will help your productivity the most — everyone works differently. But we’ve tried to keep this month’s Innovation Culture Five universally applicable, so share them with your office and give them a go.
1. Experiment with different environments. Try working from home one day a week. Without the distraction of last minute meetings and coworkers asking you questions, the tasks that require extreme concentration might be better carried out. But be honest with yourself: would working at the café down the road eliminate the distractions of chores that need doing, or a magazine lying on your coffee table?
2. Make the most of what you’ve got. Think in detail about what you really spend your day doing, and look to speed up those processes. Marginal gains across your day-to-day tasks will have a huge cumulative effect. Try speeding up your mouse or trackpad’s tracking speed, or look into installing apps such as Spark, which enable you to launch apps or even type set sentences or paragraphs with keyboard shortcuts. If you often find yourself writing stock responses to emails, Spark could have a huge impact on your productivity.
3. Try out distraction-eliminating tools. Some swear by non-distraction apps like iA Writer, which enables full-screen writing on a minimal layout and disabled notifications. Others turn on airplane mode, but the Springwise-featured TripMode will let you have WiFi access for researching, while blocking web access for distracting apps such as mailboxes, calendars, or music apps.
4. Allowing a flexible schedule for your employees. A lot of us are early risers who get the most work done in the morning, but there are those who find the quiet office at night ideal for focusing on a difficult task. Try to setup your office to accommodate for these differences where possible, to ensure everyone is working when they’re at their most productive.
5. Have rituals. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, morning rituals are scientifically proven to help you settle into “work mode” easier. We often hear successful entrepreneurs attributing their productivity to making to-do lists before they start their day. Even something as simple as making a cup of tea will work as a signifier for your brain that the day as started.
We’re once again sharing some music from the Springwise office via Spotify. Please feel free to get in touch, and look out for another Innovation Culture Bulletin next month, when we’ll be looking at how to improve the communication in your office.