Productivity was something we were obsessed with in my grad school program. Since all of us were writers, we wanted to know how to keep ourselves motivated to finish that novel, finish that short story, finish that collection of essays. It’s so easy to get distracted and to say we’ll do it later.
One tip that professors and fellow students have offered has really worked for me, and I think it can help all of you non-writers as well. Even if you work in an office every day and can’t leave, this can help you with the projects you need to complete in your free time. Anyone else dreading the process of sending out holiday cards?
If you can’t seem to focus, try this: Change your space! If you can’t get work done at home, go to a coffee shop, go to the library, and I’ve even heard of some desperate people going to a hotel for one day and night. If you take yourself out of that comfortable environment, you’ll eliminate those distractions. You can’t lay down for a nap, you can’t watch TV, you can’t distract yourself with household chores. You have to work, or stare at the wall.
Think you can’t get any work done in a public space? Try these tips:
Select a less-populated space. If you’re headed to a coffee shop, try not to go to the Starbucks you know always has a line out the door. Unless you’re really good at working in louder spaces and don’t mind waiting around for a table, pick a bigger coffee shop and go at an off-time. But remember it doesn’t need to be as silent as a library — sometimes it actually helps to have some dull noise around you to really make your brain focus on what you’re doing. And if you plan to camp out for longer than two hours, make sure you go up and buy another drink or snack at some point.
Pick a spot that looks comfortable and has an outlet. Go at those off-times to find the perfect spot. If you’re worried about holding on to your space, leave a notebook or inexpensive item on the table when you run to the bathroom (but always take your purse and laptop with you). If you aren’t sure where the outlets are, ask the cashier or barista.
Bring headphones. If it does get too loud at some point, bring headphones. You don’t even need to turn on music — sometimes having them in your ears helps to block the noise. And if you need to listen to something on your computer, it will be much better for the people around you if you have headphones.
Bring a friend who also has work to do. This can work depending on the friend. If you both have a lot of work to do, make a pact and hold each other to it. Be silent and work for a certain amount of time, then take a break to chat over coffee. This has really worked when I’ve gone to coffee shops with fellow writers, and it’s because they get it — we need to hold each other accountable!
Turn off your wireless. If Facebook and other temptations are calling your name, and you really don’t need the internet to do the work you’re doing, turn off the wireless on your laptop. You can google how to turn it off on your specific computer if you don’t already know.
Have you ever tried changing locations, and found yourself being far more productive? If so, where did you go? Did you go alone or take a friend? Share your tips with us.