People think that something big will come into their lives and kill their time, but we often have control over big things. Our productivity is killed by many small problems that are repeating themselves, such as checking our messages every 3 minutes or checking social media for more comments or likes. (I have written about cutting out dopamine shortcuts.)
We are productive because of our daily habits, its also not just an individual that is productive, its often the environment, we have all gone on holiday or moved locations thinking we will continue being productive, but at home we have ourselves geared up for productivity, such as chargers in each room, having distractions purposely away from us, making our environment easy to close a door, convenient things around that we need or even just having a fast internet connection.
One of my biggest problems for me is popping out for food, we convince ourselves its only 1 hour to go out and eat, but it takes hours to get back into work again, sometimes it takes me a few days to get in the right zone. My day can be destroyed by one or two outings.
Small problems and distractions take mental bandwidth, they take us out of the deep work zone.. dropping out of a task to do smaller tasks won’t take just the 1 minute that you thought, you will end up checking other things and then getting back into the task in hand is tough. I often sit in thirst, hungry and needing to go to the toilet because I didn’t want to leave the zone while I am on a winning streak. I am trying to finish this article and three others right now before I go get a drink and lose my rhythm.
Tracking your time for a week and putting them into categories is a good way of working out where your time is going, so you can eliminate the unproductive stuff by outsourcing tasks or simply not doing it, for example I do my best to check social media as little as possible, I also wake up 4.30 am, so there is no one to talk to while I work. Another good one for me is only checking my emails a few times a day instead of every hour, my emails can wait, I am not taking customer orders etc
All of these little unproductive tasks compound into a huge loss of productivity.
I have my main goals written on a piece of paper in front of me on my desk, I read it daily and check it often. (This is separate to a jobs list)
You can ask yourself these questions every day to tweak your environment.
Do you really need to be doing these tasks?
Are these less productive tasks working towards your goals?
Can you work your time smarter?
Can you make your environment more productive?
Is social media more important than helping customers?
How can you stop interruptions? (I have bottles of water next to me in my office, if you need a bottle to urinate in during deep work, then so be it)
Can you order all your food deliveries or get someone to prepare?