Working at Sleekform has been my first ever experience where I've had to work at a computer all day. A "desk job" if you will (but for the sake of full disclosure and transparency: I'm currently writing this from my couch- but you get the picture).
Before I started this job, I did a million different things to make money- from being a full-time nanny, a tour guide at a brewery, a waitress, a barista, and one time I even dressed up in a string cheese mascot costume for the opening of a local grocery store.
Needless to say, I was used to putting in many hours of hard work. I am no stranger to being on my feet for 18 hours a day and working the entire time. And I really mean working- whether it was jumping on a trampoline with a 6-year-old, or running down to the big scary freezer at the restaurant; I worked the entire time I was clocked in. Sometimes I would get lucky, and the kids might nap for a bit, or there could be a lull in customers that would allow me to have a quiet moment to myself, but those were few and far between and would never last very long.
When I started working at Sleekform, I legitimately felt like I had won the lottery. The idea of only having to work only 8 hours at a time and getting to do it while sitting- well, never has a girl ever felt so charmed!
The week before I started working, I thought to myself:
"What a sinch! What a breeze! I will write and write and design pictures and websites and sit and relax and become the most productive, successful girl in all the land!!!"
But what happened next came as quite a shock….
It turns out I am NOT the most productive girl in the world. In fact, I am actually a distracted squirrel who has to really work to get anything done. I seemed keen to do anything but my work, and I would find myself being so easily distracted throughout the day. I would always manage to get everything finished, but some days I was shocked by how long it would take me to get the most simple tasks completed.
Did I have undiagnosed ADHD? Was I a lazy slacker? I had no idea what was wrong with me!
Every day I would open my laptop and think.
"You will sit here for the next 4 hours, and you will work, and then you will break for 30 minutes and sit back down and work for 4 more hours."
and never ONCE was I able to accomplish this.
This perplexed my service industry trained the brain- why was my body able to stand and work for a seemingly endless amount of time, but my smart, clever, and (somewhat) educated brain could only work for a fraction of that time before beginning to stare into space and turning into mush.
Then I did the worst thing a person can possibly do. I kept my concerns inside. I was in the midst of such an extreme learning curve as it was and was already depending on my co-workers a lot, so the last thing I wanted to do was slide into their DM's and be like,
"Yo… are you struggling to make it through the workday? Can you focus for more than a few minutes at a time? How do you do it?"
I was scared I was the only one who had the attention span of a goldfish. I didn't want to give myself away, so I kept it bottled up inside and continued to work for 20 minutes at a time, staring into space for 10, become aware I was staring into space, and then work for 20 more minutes- rinse and repeat for 8 hours.
Then I started writing this super sick blog. I got to read about the body, and our chairs and how they affect each other and write everything I learned down and share it with you! What a dream! Every week I was learning so much and then getting to teach people about all the things I learned. As the blog grew and evolved, so did the topics I touched on. I started to read not just about ergonomics but about wellness in the workplace in general. I was learning about how our emotions affect our ability to be productive and how they affect our physical well being. The next thing I knew, I was reading all these stats about human's ability to focus at work…. and the information ASTOUNDED me.
I discovered that during an 8-hour workday, the average office worker is productive for TWO HOURS AND FIFTY-THREE MINUTES…
Let that sink in my dudes.
The good news here is that I am not apparently a lazy slacker, I am merely just an average human- and so are you!
What a relief!
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics study, the most common workplace time-wasting activities are as follows:
- Reading news websites--1 hour, 5 minutes
- Checking social media--44 minutes
- Discussing non-work-related things with co-workers--40 minutes
- Searching for new jobs--26 minutes
- Taking smoke breaks--23 minutes
- Making calls to partners or friends--18 minutes
- Making hot drinks--17 minutes
- Texting or instant messaging--14 minutes
- Eating snacks--8 minutes
- Preparing food in office--7 minutes
Here are a few other really eye-opening (and kind of hilarious?) studies they have done surrounding workplace productivity:
- "Inspired" employees who feel a personal investment in the mission of their workplace may be up to 125 percent more productive than "satisfied" employees, and produce up to 2.25 times more output, according to the results of a study by the Harvard Business Review. (Harvard Business Review, 2017.)
- According to a research study on optimal workplace environments by Canada Life Insurance Group, 77 percent of workers feel that flexible working aids their productivity. (Canada Life Insurance Group.)
- One Stanford study found that remote workers studied were 14 percent more productive on average than their commuting compatriots. (Stanford University, 2015.)
- Office workers spend an average of 31 hours per month in meetings, according to a study by Atlassian. (Atlassian.)
- Over 17 weeks, fantasy football allegedly costs workers and companies over $14 billion in lost productivity. (Who was so mad that they did that study?) (Ipsos/Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Inc.)
- The average American spends the duration of two full workdays on Facebook each month, according to an assessment by Comscore. (Comscore, 2016.)
After reading these stats, I realized how lucky I was to be able to work remotely from home and make my own hours. I get to decide when are where I'm the most productive. It was also DEFINITELY the first time I was grateful not to have co-workers around me all day to get distracted by. I love chit-chatting, and I know if I worked at an office, I'd be a water-cooler girl. I'd start watching the bachelor and join the fantasy football team and just chat all day long about both those things and probably get nothing done ever.
Since I’ve spent so much of the past 18 months thinking I had some sort of irregular brain defect, I worked really hard at staying focused and sought out the help of apps and coping mechanisms and now that I know we are all unfocused goldfish squirrels (for the most part) it feel as if it's the right time to share them with you.
So, without further ado, here are my top three favorite ways to stay focused during the day:
1- Do Not Disturb Mode: This is the king of maintaining productivity. Distraction is the number one idea killer, and when you are a full-time creative person, you have to be on the lookout for stuff like this. Being pinged on slack, bring inundated with emails all day will crush your soul. Tell anyone who might need to get a hold of you in the day and say "I'm going into DnD for *insert amount time* in the next minutes- is there anything you need for me" this way you will know you've covered your bases and will be able to actually focus and not worry about people thinking you're missing or actually slacking. Then you can come back into the world, having accomplished something magnificent! Try it! You'll be shocked at how much you can get done (and how quickly you finish it) when you're really, truly focused on something.
2- Rescue Time- This is a great app that tracks what websites or apps you're using throughout the day so you can better understand where your time is going throughout the day and then better be able to reign in your focus. If you're anything like me, you find when you look back at the day, everything can feel all blurred together, and you actually have no idea what you did- this gives you some cold hard facts about where you spent your day.
3- Project Management Apps + Time Bucketing: Recently, at Sleekform, we started using a Project management app, and it's been a game-changer. It is SO helping to be able to pull up everything you have to do in the day and see it in front of you. Not only does it eliminate the possibility of missing something or miscommunicating who's responsible for what task, but it also provides you with a satisfying "done" button you get to press when you complete a task which feels really, really good and is addicting. You'll find yourself cruising through a task just so you get to press the done button.
Another great thing about apps like this is how it lets you choose the length of time you think each task will take. I personally love to break up my days and weeks into buckets- like Wednesday, for example, I write my blog posts on Wednesdays mornings, and then on Wednesday afternoon, I plan all our social media posts for the upcoming week. That way, I know, I'm only focusing on those two things all day, so I can get into a particular writing and content creation headspace and not get distracted by other types of tasks.
Of course, everybody is different and our ability to focus has a lot to do with the environment we're in, how much sleep we've gotten, our interest in a specific task or job ( I know when I'm excited about something, good luck getting me to stop working, but if I don't care, it is a miracle if it ever gets done). The main thing we need to do to make sure we can stay focused is to set up a structure that works for us and our needs and, to be honest with ourselves with where we can be making improvements and doing better. We are all capable of achieving great things at accomplishing our goals, but unless we are disciplined and smart with our time, we may not ever get there.Do you struggle with staying focused through the workday? What do you to regain focus once you've lost it? We'd love to hear from you and know your own little tips and tricks (and possibly steal your ideas and use them ourselves) Let us know in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would make my whole day to get inundated with email notifications about this blog post!