The 1 thing that's killing your productivity - and how to beat it
Advice on how you can boost your productivity from a former Monk
Distraction is the one mortal enemy of productivity.
While lovely, light open-plan offices are undoubtedly more inspiring than the dimly-lit offices of the past, there are times when it can be hard to block out the noise and get your work done.
Add this to the already long list of distractions in your work day - notifications galore, chat apps, phones and emails - and you've got yourself a bit of a monster on your hands.
Former Monk, turned entrepreneur, Dandapani recently explained how your productivity is being sabotaged and what you can do to combat it.
Without walls, open offices are rife with distractions - colleagues interrupting to ask questions, the clinking of bowls being stacked into the dishwasher, your desk-mate talking loudly to a co-worker across the way about their weekend - these are just some of the diversions that may be breaking your concentration.
Dandapani explained how establishing a communication policy enables workers to get the most out of open-plan offices. One way is to establish a policy that outlines when it is not appropriate to interrupt a colleague should be treated as you would a dress code or a set of company objectives.
He gives his time spent as a monk in a monastery - where they also had open offices - as an example. He says, even though they worked on communication most of the day, there was still a system in place so you would know whether another monk was available to talk or not; in some cases just from looking at their body language.
"If another monk was walking down the pathway, hands in front of him, fingers intertwined, you would know he was in a contemplative state and reflecting while he was walking," Dandapani says. "If his hands were by his side then you could go up and talk to him."
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Dandapani suggests designated uninterrupted time periods as an example. Maybe between the hours of 1pm and 3pm are for solo work and any collaboration or questions must be reserved for before or after. It's up to the team to decide what would work best.
"Distraction is a productivity killer and worse still it breeds a habit pattern of distraction in your subconscious mind," Dandapani says.
At my company, Xero, we have open-plan offices with built-in independent workspaces. We have private meeting rooms and quiet zones, some of which are bookable, enabling employees to get on with their workflow uninterrupted if need be. Some even just pop their headphones on as a way to signal they are unavailable.
We also give our team members the flexibility to work from home if they need to. We encourage open communication but also have a culture where personal boundaries are respected.
Dandapani certainly doesn't recommend becoming a recluse. It's all about knowing when to collaborate with your colleagues. Timing and discriminating between what's important and what's not, is everything.
At the end of the day, there is no greater tool than concentration when it comes to productivity.