As I write this it’s early Saturday morning. I’ve got a cup of coffee, a quiet house, and I’m in the zone. You know that place where you mind is free, yet you’re blowing through tasks with the focus of a ninja on ginseng? That’s the zone. I’m starting to think that Saturdays may be the best day of the week to work.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for leaving the weekends for play. But when I do find myself working on Saturdays, I find that I’m usually in a better mood and far more productive. I’m not proposing that we should start working on weekends (though I know far too many of us do), but there is a reason why working on Saturdays can be a lot more productive than any weekday.
Ultimately, working on Saturdays is great because it doesn’t feel like work. You don’t have to be working if you don’t want to. You choose to.
So if feeling like we’re not working helps productivity, let’s dissect the ways that Saturdays are different than workdays.
- Easy pace– Weekends usually seem to move a little slower. In the every day hustle-‘n-bustle of our crazy workdays, it’s nice to have a change of pace. The slower pace of the weekend is great for really buckling down and focusing.
- More focus– Social media sites are dead on the weekends, and the internet as a whole is a ghost town. People are typically just not around their computers or phones on the weekends, except for social reasons. There’s no stuffed feed readers, no full email inboxes, IM pings, or any other web-related distractions to speak of. Just interruption-free productivity.
- No pressure– You only have limited hours to every workday to finish up projects in the business world. However, weekends don’t really have the imaginary boundaries of 9-5, so there’s no constant pressure to get everything done in our short work days.
- No deadlines– Because weekends are supposed to be for resting, it makes sense that there is less pressure to finish projects and tasks. The mood of a weekend is much more relaxed, and odds are you’re just working to finish up a few details.
- The little, extra things. The coffee, the relaxing music, the casual clothing… all of these things add up to make the Saturday work experience more enjoyable.
- Looking forward to the rest of the day. Odds are you’ve got fun things planned for the reset of the Saturday (or you should!). Having activities to look forward to can vastly improve one’s mood.
The common denominator in the above list appears that to be that these factors soften the edges of traditional work environments. Stuffy, fast-paced, multi-tasking environments aren’t good for any worker. Granted, we’ll probably never get rid of things like deadlines and work hours in the business world, but the trick is softening the edges around these “requirements” that the rest of the world has. Here are a few easy and quick ways that help:
- Take. More. Breaks. – A rested mind will work much more efficiently than an overloaded, circuit-blowing mind. Resting at timed intervals forces us to slow down. I recommend the cocktail approach of planning my day around big breaks and using Anti RSI (mac only) to make sure I’m taking smaller breaks at regular intervals. Switching activities also helps keep the day interesting.
- Tune Out. We choose to be immersed in distractions throughout the day. We have the power to tune them out, if we really want to.Disconnect from the internet, don’t check the email every 2 minutes, turn your cell phone off, set the IM client to away… these are just a few quick ways to keep digital distractions to a minimum, allowing you to work more efficiently.
- Automatically chop off a few tasks from your list. Humans are usually pretty bad at gauging what we’re capable of doing in a given timeframe ( and I’m the poster child for it). Odds are we’ve already scheduled too many things into our workday, making us stressed because deep down we know we probably won’t get to everything on the list. Starting the day behind can give add some serious strain to anyone’s day, even Mr. Covey himself! Chopping a few tasks off your list won’t hurt your productivity, because let’s face it, you probably weren’t going to get them done anyway.
- Add “padding” to all deadlines. This may not be an option for everyone, but if possible you should always add a little padding to every deadline. If you think you can get a project done in 2 weeks, say you’ll get it done in 3. This allows for those unexpected setbacks to happen (as they always do), without messing up yourtimeframes and adding stress to the project. You can work without having to worry about the deadlines.
- Create inspiring work environments. If your work environment is pleasing to you, your work day will be more enjoyable. Little things like having good coffee or tea on hand can be soothing. A little mellow music like jazz, blues or classical adds that light, relaxed coffee shop feel to it.
- Plan fun stuff into your day. The reason why we dread getting up in the morning is that we have nothing fun to look forward to. Working ourselves silly for 8-10 hours a day so we can pay bills isn’t exactly a huge motivator to rise and shine. But, what if we did have other things to look forward to in the evening, or even while at work? Having little things to look forward to during the day greatly speeds up the work and lightens the mood. Try spicing the work day up with break times that include activities that you really enjoy out of your work area. Watch your favorite TV show, eat some ice cream, chase squirrels, anything that makes you look forward to the next break. [Note: If you already hate your job, this will help a little, but you’ll probably still loathe getting up in the morning.] [Note #2: Contrary to popular belief, chasing squirrels can be very therapeutic.]
Any work environment, (save for maybe the military), can benefit from a little softening of the hard edges that we’ve grown accustomed to in the business world. More realistic expectations and a more casual approach to work can actually help us become more productive.
Photo by jdcartee