In today’s real life case study I want to particularly talk about procrastination in an open office environment vs working from home – using myself as a case study.
When I’m in the office environment my train of thought goes something like this: “To-do list to my right, keyboard in front, large packet of crisps/nuts/liquorice allsorts to my left – boom, work commences. What kind of work? It’s the thinking-hard-about-something kind of work. It’s top on the list because I know I don’t like doing it and it’s been on my list all week…is this liquorice getting stuck in my front teeth? I kind of need the loo anyway so I might as well go and check. I’ll take my to-do list with me just in case there’s someone I can harass about something on the way back. 40 minutes later, 4 little items ticked off the list – hurrah, this is thirsty work…tea anyone?”
For me procrastination isn’t really about achieving nothing – Procrastination is about me not getting around to the boring important bits. Today I’m self-employed and work largely from home and have been worried about the looming possibility of having a boring important job that I never get done – I’ve waited nearly a year, this has not happened. Why? What was it about my previous work that meant my boring important jobs were regularly avoided when now I happily do them even though the work I do hasn’t changed much? Is it about focus? At home is there less to steal my focus? I’d argue no; open office environments and working from home have a plethora of distraction opportunities, if anything many people will testify that distractions are far greater at home, no, I don’t think this is the reason for my new found lack of procrastination.
I’d like to suggest that the disappearance of my procrastination is because I allow myself to not be busy. Open office environments have a major flaw – they give doing nothing a bad name. At home, I can spend half an hour contemplating the inside of my left foot, all the while cogs turn and my relaxed mode is preparing me for a hefty chunk of thinking-hard-about-something work. Whereas in the office, the need to “appear busy” leads me to swap boring important jobs for the quick and urgent because I fear the judgement of my peers and seniors. The irony is that allowing ourselves some downtime could actually increase productivity, and in the end could tackle procrastination too, if only we would let it.
Does this ring true for you? I’d be interested to hear your experiences…