Between corporate emails and instant messages, personal app notifications, Zoom meetings, we all feel like we are very busy. But are we really productive?
Before the pandemy, open spaces and their extraneous noises could make it difficult to focus. But today, widespread remote work has increased the number of communication channels and all these digital solicitations seem to undermine our efficiency. Business conversations are encroaching more and more on Whatsapp and corporate chats are exploding: Slack surpassed 12 million daily users in March 2020 and Microsoft Teams has grown from 75 million daily users in May 2020 to 100 million in October 2020.
How to stay efficient despite distractions? How to better manage your time and not disperse yourself? What are the simple practices to work more serenely?
Why is better management of your working time necessary?
The new era of hyper-connection that we are living in has consequences on our behavior
We've gotten into the habit of doing multiple things at once. In a meeting, we now have 6 arms and 4 ears. We listen to our collaborators, take notes in your notebook, while answering our manager on Whatsapp. We are multitaskers.
We tend to mix private and professional lives. With work from home, the intimate sphere and professional life are sharing the same living space. The boundaries between the two worlds are becoming unclear.
Both of these phenomena taken to extremes can impact our health and efficiency negatively. They can lead us to burnout - since this busy schedule leaves us very few breaks to rest. This is also a challenge for our productivity, since the distractions are such that we can no longer focus on a given task for more than a few minutes at a time.
Deep work is a simple solution that allows us to avoid the stress that multitasking and blurring can involve, but also to gain efficiency and free up time.
The “deep work”, or the in-depth work
Focus work, or deep work, designates “a professional activity carried out in a state of absolute concentration which pushes our cognitive capacities to their limits (...) Deep work is like a superpower in our increasingly competitive economy. . ” This definition appears on the back cover of Deep Work written by American author Cal Newport. In his book, this computer science professor at GeorgeTown University helps readers regain their ability to concentrate in a world overflowing with information. The idea is not to work more but to re-educate our mind. Okay but how ?
To achieve this state of flow, of perfect concentration to work in depth, you have to favor real breaks instead of a multitude of mini breaks on social networks or on the internet. “Entertainment, by itself, does not decrease your brain's ability to focus,” writes Cal Newport. He warns: “It is rather the fact of constantly switching, at the slightest sign of boredom or cognitive difficulty, from activities with high added-value with few stimuli to activities with low added value with a lot of stimuli, that teaches your mind to never tolerate the absence of novelty”.
He then warns against multitasking and the ever more urgent need to consult an article, a text message, a notification in the middle of a meeting or during desk work. It's this back and forth between all of these tasks that is exhausting. “This constant swing weakens the mental muscles responsible for organizing the many sources vying for your attention. By isolating Internet use (and therefore isolating distractions), you minimize the number of times you give in to the distraction. And in doing so, you strengthen the muscles responsible for selecting what should grab your attention." The ultimate goal of deep work is to be able to create deep-work hours where you won't be disturbed. Popwork goes in this direction, helping you identify your priorities of the week and focus your daily work on the most important topics.
To be productive in your work, it is essential to structure your day well: “At the beginning of each working day, take a new page of the notebook (with lines) that you use especially for this” continues Cal Newport. Then, divide the hours of the day into slots, to which you assign activities: “At the beginning of each line, enter a time of day, until you have covered all your working hours by one. Typical Day." Then think about a “time budget” (around 30% of your overall working time) for your superficial tasks. “Staying within that time budget will require you to change your behavior. You will almost certainly end up refusing projects that seem superficial, while drastically reducing the time spent on superficial tasks in your current projects. ”
Taking real breaks, controlling your schedule and structuring your work day will already help you gain in productivity. To optimize your time, you have to prioritize your tasks upstream. To do this, use the Eisenhower Pyramid, the Priority Matrix: it allows you to achieve what you have to do and helps you differentiate the important and the urgent. Because not everything that is important is urgent, and vice versa!
The 25th Hour is another book that brings together tips from entrepreneurs to increase productivity. The three authors, Guillaume Declair, Bao Dinh and Jérôme Dumont, interviewed 200 entrepreneurs by email about their productivity secrets “to work a little less and enjoy life a little more”. According to them, productivity follows a simple equation: work done = time spent x intensity of focus x speed of execution. The three golden rules of productivity according to the 25th hour finally dovetail somewhat with the Cal Newport method. It's about getting organized, focus, and then speed up, to complete each task as quickly as possible. Guillaume Declair, one of the authors, does not hide that it is also fatherhood that has made it even more effective.
Today, the Merci Alfred and Loom co-founder is just as productive as he was before his daughter was born, even though he works less! He explains: "You may be familiar with Parkinson's law, named after the British historian who observed it in the world of administration:" the work is always spread out so as to occupy the time available for its work. production ". With the arrival of a child, you have the reciprocal: your working time contracts to perform the same tasks as before. " Becoming a parent has helped him organize himself better, remove unnecessary parentheses (35 minutes on Facebook, 15 minutes at the coffee machine, ...) and identify what was really important and what was less. Charlotte Cadé, co-founder of Selency, the online second-hand shop, shares the same opinion since becoming a mother: an impression of becoming more efficient, of going more towards the essential.
Finally, if you don't have children, the SMART method is just as effective! Invented by George T. Doran, the SMART goal stands for "specific", "measurable", "achievable", "relevant" and "time bound". Try it, your goals will become much more concrete and therefore achievable.