In the last two months, I have been working by myself without interruptions. At first I was convinced this was a good thing – no interruptions for hours on end – I felt so productive and thought I could ‘get so much done’. But in the end, I found myself tiring very quickly and actively looking for distractions. I think I have never spent so much time on Facebook or reading the news. Those distractions didn’t give me a break and did not give more energy or motivation.
Working in a team, you rarely get to work concentratedly in quiet for more than an hour (or at least, that’s how it goes in my experience). Someone always gets up to get coffee and brings back some irresistible cookies, another one makes a call and yet another one is stuck and asks for help. And throughout the day you normally do not concentrate on only one thing as there are meetings and workgroups to participate in.
Now working alone, I’ve actually noticed that I need those interruptions and changes in order to concentrate better. It made me think of school and our 45min classes. Even those seemed endless to me but it probably makes sense to have short intervals of concentrations and then completely change the focus. We went from math class, to the gym, to art, to English in the span of one morning. Maybe this is something I should pick up again!
When I was working at PayPal we were almost invited to take breaks and get distracted with all those pingpong and kicker tables, wii games and comfortable launch chairs and couches we had planted around the office spaces. This last week I tried out to interrupt myself: I did sprints of 45 min and then started to work on something completely different. Giving my brain some change and new stimulation made it actually easier to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Since Santiago is so huge and I don’t have a fixed office yet, it also permitted to change scenery, working from home, going to the office or choosing one of the many Starbucks and libraries as a place to work. Sometimes I went out for a walk, I scheduled my yoga classes in the middle of the day and worked around them, I took a stroll through the market doing my grocery shopping not at night after having ‘finished working’ but rather including it into my day. Jeff Stibel had some similar thoughts and actually wrote a great list of five interruptions you can give yourself on Linkedin. He suggests five ways to give our brains a break:
1. Take a moment to do something you love.
2. Get in touch with nature.
3. Be physically active.
5. Do nothing.
During the next week, I will adapt my schedule a bit more and try to follow his advice! Let’s see how that goes! Santiago is actually perfect for it! It’s so huge that you need to move around a lot to get from one place to another – by bike you’ll enjoy nature wherever you go as the city is separated by a park on its east-west axis, right along the lines of the metro.