My husband recently had business in Virginia for a couple days and I decided to go along with him. I was a bit nervous to take this trip because I had two big projects looming over my head. However, the chance to ride my bike up and down the mountains held great appeal. If I was going to take the time to ride, I had no choice but to be extremely productive all day Friday. I planned on spending the day making progress on my massive to-do list.
I exercised early in the morning, changed my clothes and went downstairs in the lobby of the hotel to find a place to work. I spied the perfect desk away from the activity of the lobby. I unpacked my bag and got organized. And there I sat, for the next 4 hours. Slowly, but surely, I worked my way through two big projects with incredible focus and speed check this. By the time I stopped for lunch, I marveled at what I had accomplished.
I took a 10-minute walk, found a place to eat and continued to work. Two more hours flew by and I couldn’t believe how much progress I had made.
When I got back home, I gave thought as to why I was able to accomplish so much. It truly was amazing. After doing some thinking, I surmised that my unbelievable productivity was due to habits.
Being in a new environment enabled me to break the habits that had become so routine at work.
Let me explain further. According to author Charles Duhigg, the habit loop is a three-part process— a cue, a behavior and a reward. The cue signals your brain to go into the automatic behavior. It triggers the whole process. The routine is the behavior that takes place and the reward is pleasure for your brain, helping it remember the loop. Habits make up 40% of our function during the day. They enable us to take part in these behaviors without much energy and while not being mentally aware. Therefore, many of my usual distractions during the day that drastically decrease my productivity are really just my habits— bad habits.
For example, when I’m working at my desk at home, I get up numerous times to go to the kitchen and get a drink or something to eat. I’m sure you can imagine my reward for this behavior. At home, I also interrupt what I’m doing numerous times to check my email. I get a great rush every time I hear the ding of another message. My reward is the endorphin rush. When I’m working at my desk at home, I interrupt what I’m doing numerous times to go on social media or to check on the dog.
However, I didn’t do any of those things in this new setting. I just worked. In this new environment, my usual routine, which unfolds without much thought, was interrupted and I changed my habits. Actually, I should say that I changed my bad habits.
If you’re struggling with being productive in the workplace, give some thought to some of your daily habits. When we work in the same place every day, we acquire routines. Some of them are positive, but I’m pretty sure that some are also negative and get in the way of you being productive. Of course, being honest with YOU is the first step to making some much-needed changes.