We’re one year into the pandemic and thousand of Americans are still finding themselves doing their jobs in very different ways. For some, their employers have seen a year’s worth of the cost savings in shuttering their doors, and are now offering permanent telework options—many of which include coworking spaces such as ALX Community.
In turn, some of these employers are seeing for the first time what research has shown for years: that telework leads to fewer sick days, less time off, and, most surprising, an “astounding productivity boost,” according to a two-year Stanford study led by professor Nicholas Bloom (here’s his 2017 TEDx talk on his findings).
If you’re already a member of ALX Community, you’re likely familiar with the increase in productivity; member Julianne Woehrle’s tripled when she joined. Whether you’re looking to ramp up your work day from scratch or are just looking for an edge to meet a deadline, here are five ways to take your productivity to the next level.
1. Toss the 9-5 mentality
Whether you see it as a blessing or a curse, you can thank the auto industry for establishing the 9-5 workday; specifically, Henry Ford, who issued a five-day, 40-hour work week in 1926. But what once worked for the manufacturing sector (and still does for hundreds of industries) doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, working fewer hours actually leads to an increase in productivity, according to another Stanford study (they really love this productivity stuff). This can be chalked up to Parkinson’s Law, which states that the amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion—workers will become more efficient if there’s less time to complete a task. If your job allows, try shortening your work day by just one hour and impose stricter daily deadlines to see the effect for yourself.
2. Use time blocking and batching
“A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.” – Cal Newport, Author of Deep Work
Like its cousin, time blocking, time batching is a way to organize your day in order to be more productive, and coworking spaces are primed for it. With time batching, you group similar tasks together, then place them into blocks of time on your calendar—AKA time blocking. For instance, take all of the mini-tasks associated with payroll and create a slot of time on your calendar each week that’s long enough to finish all of the tasks, rather than allotting a slice of time each day for one or two related items. Time batching requires diving deeper into a task for longer bouts of time, which means it’s best done in a distraction-free environment, which—ta-do—you’ll find in a coworking space.
3. Take technology breaks
To increase attention span and productivity, try incorporating “technology breaks,” a term coined by Larry Rosen, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University. Rather than pick up your phone every time it lights up with a notification, or refresh your email every few minutes, put your phone away, close open tabs, and work, undistracted, for 15 minutes. (This is actually a long time in a world where Slack/Trello/Air Table/Homebase/Outlook are all constantly competing for your attention.) Once you’ve mastered 15 minutes, gradually up your time.
4. Take a walk
It sounds counterintuitive, but leaving your desk for a 10-minute walk is incredibly beneficial to how the brain functions. Even a casual stroll can immediately alter how certain parts of the brain communicate and coordinate with one another and improve memory function, according to 2018 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Research also shows that 90-minute work sessions followed by short breaks of no more than 15-20 minutes sync more closely with our natural energy cycles and allow us to maintain a better focus and higher energy level throughout the day. Rather than conserving our energy for a marathon work day with few breaks, we are more productive when we dedicate higher amounts of energy to shorter periods of time.
Bonus: Exercise also makes your brain bigger.
5. Minimize interruptions
When we get interrupted from a task, it takes around 15 minutes to sink back into it. And while coworking spaces are already primed to enhance concentration—whereas in a typical work environment you’re much more likely to be interrupted by chatty coworkers and too many meetings that should have been emails—take it one step further and bring noise-canceling headphones to tune out any loud noise. Or, consider upgrading to a private office.