How can a power cut help productivity?

Earlier this week, my office had no power. For several hours, there was no hum of office equipment, just the hum of conversation as people got on with their day with no email, no phones and no coffee!

What was interesting was how quickly people adapted and found something they could do without access to technology. Desks got tidied; paperwork was signed; filing cabinets rearranged; rather than communicating by e-mail, people held impromptu meetings in rooms with natural light.

Whilst I wouldn’t recommend that you turn off all the power in order to force you to deal with your overflowing in-tray, it did get me thinking about a question a coach once asked me:

Since you have to do this anyway, do you choose for it to be neutral, hard work or fun?

We all know that not every task is intrinsically fun or inspiring – we also know that sometimes they just have to be done. If I go into a task with a bad-tempered attitude, then it’s pretty likely, although not certain, that it’ll take longer and I’ll still be in a bad mood at the end of the process. Therefore, wherever possible, I’m going to choose to somehow make a task either neutral or fun. This topic arises with my clients too – here are some of the ways they’ve suggested to dispel the dismay of dull tasks.

Does the end justify the means?

Take a few moments to consider the advantages of getting the task completed. Is it going to contribute to a larger project you’re working on? Will it help out a colleague? Is it as simple as ‘If I get this job done, so and so will get off my case’? Or ‘once it’s done, I won’t have to see it staring at me every day on my list’? Reminding yourself of the benefit may be just enough to give you the push to get the job started.

On the other hand … one of my clients used this process to rigorously examine a particular issue and discovered the interesting fact that the task appeared to have no benefit to anyone whatsoever and so she removed it from her team’s to do list. No-one has ever mentioned it again!

900 seconds

Sometimes the hardest thing is to just get started on a task which you think is going to take you ages. This is where the 900 second technique can help. The basic gist is this: we can do pretty much anything for 15 minutes, whether it’s crunch numbers, write a section of a report or clean out the garage. During this time, you stay completely focussed on the matter in hand – no taking calls, picking up emails or breaking off to talk to an unexpected visitor. Read more about the 900 second technique here and then try it out for yourself.

Have some fun

Whether it’s cranking up the volume on your ‘music for signing off invoices’ play list, roping in a couple of colleagues to help you get through the envelope stuffing for your mailshot or setting up a competition to see which member of your team can make the most cold calls before lunch, there’s often some way in which you can take some of the tedium out of the task. Even the least eagerly-anticipated task can be slightly more entertaining with an injection of fun.

Those are just three ideas – all pretty simple but all pretty effective. I’m sure you can think of others.

Today’s pebble for your contemplation:

Since you have to do this (insert name of task you’ve been avoiding here!) anyway, do you choose for it to be neutral, hard work or fun?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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