Professional Development

Productivity Challenge: Beat the Boredom Blues

So I know the Productivity Challenge was supposed to be 30 days, but it turns out 30 days isn’t long enough! I needed 30 days just to get through Challenge #1! Let me provide a recap of what I learned in the last 30 days working through Challenge #1: Eliminating Email Dependency.

For this challenge, I encouraged you to avoid allowing your inbox to manage your schedule and schedule inbox management time instead. Here is what I encountered during this challenge:

Week #1 – I scheduled time to read through my inbox each day. However, every time the notification sounded, a little stir of panick took over as I tried not to drop what I was doing to read the latest tasker. To fix this problem, I decided to close out of Outlook during non-scheduled periods. Towards the middle part of the week, I realized weeding through my emails during the scheduled time lasted much longer than the time I alloted. This was because I wanted to answer every email in my inbox instead of prioritizing the taskers and working on the ones I could accomplish during the scheduled time period.

Week #2 – My panick had eased, and I discovered that I was able to get more accomplished by scheduling email management and prioritizing taskers based on this schedule. However, week two also brought more interruptions from my employees, colleagues, and senior management. Coworkers would grab a seat in my office and start discussion the latest issue they assumed I knew about since it was emailed to me 10 minutes prior. Senior managers called me for a status on an analysis, and when I asked “what analysis?” they replied, “on the issue I emailed you about over an hour ago!” I also noticed my employees were popping into my office throughout the day to see why I had not approved their requests yet. I was blown away by the amount of office visits and calls I received just about email taskers. I spent an entire week fielding questions and calming concerns as a result of not being enslaved to my inbox!

Week #3 – This was a good week. Everyone knew about my new take on email. As a result, the disruptions were fleeting and I was producing. I cleared out my inbox this week, during the scheduled times of course, and felt like I was on top of the world!

Week #4 – Oh, boy. I was hit with a new problem…With a clean inbox and everything checked off of my to-do list, I was bored! How could I possibly be bored? The problem is that I have been working tactical items from email for so long that being productive without email taskers is like a foreign concept!

This is the perfect inspiration for a new productivity challenge! Challenge #2 will focus on helping us be productive through the boredom blues.

CNBC recently reported that being bored at work isn’t necessary a bad thing, and it can in fact increase our creativity! Sandi Mann, senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K. was quoted saying, “Once we’re allowed to daydream, our heads are free to think in different ways.” This certainly makes sense. When our minds are busy with taskers and things that must be accomplished, we don’t have time or room to think creatively and strategically. This is unfortunate, because strategic planning and innovative thinking are important to leadership. Since allowing yourself to daydream at work isn’t necessarily encouraged, it’s important to understand how to be productive during our boredom rather than surfing the internet to pass the time. For challenge #2, I encourage you to practice one of these three activities below to enhance productivity when you become bored:

1. Dream – Allow yourself to dream about the things that you would love to accomplish in your role. Perhaps it’s being the project lead on a big task. Maybe you would like to improve processes and efficiency. There are always things we wish we could do! Use this time to dream up ways to actually accomplish those things!

2. Read – Pick up a magazine article or browse LinkedIn for an article that applies to you at work. Assess the article and determine what you can take away from it to implement at work. Sometimes we are tapped out of new ideas. Reading can spur that creativity and spark an idea that would have never come to you.

3. Learn – Ask if you can “shadow” someone. Perhaps another department in your company is interesting to you, and you would like to know more about it in order to do your job better. See if you can tag along to a few meetings or just have quality conversations with people in that department to better understand how your departments work together.

Let me know your progress! I’ve heard from several of you, and your experiences are fascinating!

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