This article comes from my friend, web developer and software writer, Gregor Spowart. He shares 4 simple ways to produce better work and refresh your thinking, so you are more creative and productive.
When I first started my business, I knew that I was going to have to work hard if I wanted to succeed. In my mind, hard work equalled success. So, as long as I worked hard then I’d be successful in what I did. Looking back that’s laughably naïve, but these are the lessons you very quickly learn when you’re starting out!
The phrase “Work smarter, not harder” is pretty much a cliché now, which is a shame. It’s actually a good idea to ask ourselves, ‘are there any alternative ways to work, which are at least as effective as my current working practices, yet require less effort?’
For me there are!
The lesson I quickly learned was that when I was working all day at my desk, then working on the sofa in the evening with my laptop, I wasn’t really working. And I don’t mean that I was on Facebook and YouTube wasting time (although now that I think about it, I probably was!). What I mean is that my brain wasn’t ever working at its optimum level, because it was tired. My mind simply wasn’t getting the chance to relax, recuperate and refresh at the end of the day.
It’s now essential for me each evening, to step away from my day to day work and forget about it until the next day. This gives my brain a chance to refresh and get ready for the demands I make on it the next time.
Of course it’s easier said than done, especially when you’re busy and stressed. So, here are a few rules I follow, which work extremely well.
How I refresh my thinking outside working hours
Here are 4 rules I have put in place, which have given me greater clarity, improved my creativity and refreshed my thinking:
- Don’t look at your (work) email outside of work hours: Make a clean break. Once your body has left work, then so should your brain. There’s no need to read work email when you’re not there. Resist the temptation! Personal email is fine, but make sure it goes to a different account to your work email.
- If you have your work email on your mobile phone, switch off the notification icon: We all fiddle with our phones and tablets when we’re not at work. If an email notification icon pops up, then you’re going to see it and even if you don’t look at it, you’re going to wonder what it’s about. Don’t just hide the icons!
- Don’t give clients your personal mobile number: If you do, then they’ll call you and you don’t want that! Even if you ignore the call, you’ll see the missed call and then you’ll wonder what they wanted. You may even feel obliged to call them back. Don’t! This is your personal time, not work time. If necessary, get a cheap mobile phone and give them the number, but make it clear that it’s for desperate emergencies only.
- If you have a home office, shut the door outside of office hours: It’s a no-go zone. If you wander in there, then who knows what evils will catch your eye and send your brain back into work mode. Stay out of there! Seriously. Just stay out.
There are also a few rules I follow when I AM working
- Take regular breaks: Everyone knows that regular breaks are good for your health, but in terms of working smarter they’re incredibly effective. If you’re faced with a tricky problem, then taking a 5 or 10 minute break for a cup of tea or coffee, can give your brain the rest it needs, for you to come back and see that problem in a new, solvable light. Even a two minute wander in the garden or to the local shop can help.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away: Literally. This post was originally going to be about the importance of going for a walk, but Jim did a great post on that already. It’s a fantastic thing to do, It clears your head, it’s good exercise and it lets your brain relax. You can go cycling, running, skateboarding or whatever. Just get away from your desk for a while and enjoy yourself. You’ll come back to your desk with a much clearer head and feel more productive.
- There’s nothing wrong with YouTube in the workplace: On the contrary, 10 minutes of watching people fall over or cute kittens is fantastic brain relaxation time. I’m serious – if you’re watching a skateboarding dog and laughing about it, then you’re not thinking about the usual work stuff. So, when you return to your work then you’ll see it in a new light. Try it!
One size doesn’t fit all
It’s important to state that these rules should be applied in moderation. If you’re the on-call guy for a nuclear power plant, then don’t ignore your phone! And don’t go for 9 hour walks every day, while your workload goes out of control and your clients leave you. However, do make a clear distinction between your time and your work time. Ensure that you get plenty of time to relax and switch off from work.
You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you put your mind to it (another cliché!)
About the author
Gregor Spowart is a web developer and director of Mass Media Design, a digital agency based in Reading in the UK. He blogs regularly on website marketing and SEO at the Mass Media Design blog and can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and on GooglePlus.