Office productivity sometimes feels elusive, especially when we lose our focus, let our priorities get muddied or allow petty drama to consume our thoughts. We humans love our shiny objects, but luckily there are ways to overcome those silly distractions and boost office productivity.
In the weeks leading up to my wedding, I received a lot of guidance from well-meaning friends and family. The most common phrase I heard was, “Never go to bed angry.” It’s great advice given the right context. But I do think sometimes an overnight cool down session can go a long way in making an argument seem less important.
Anyway, that’s not what this post is about, but stick with me here. Out of all the good, bad and insane words of wisdom I received before my wedding day, my favorite to share throughout the years has always been this: “It’s not about the wedding, it’s about the marriage.” This is the advice I share with my friends who are planning their big days, when I’m writing a card or even trying to warm up cold feet. And oddly enough, it’s the mantra I recite to myself from time to time when I’m having a hard day at work.
It’s not about the wedding, it’s about the marriage. You probably won’t remember the tiny floral details on the table cloths, or which of your aunts didn’t want to sit next to each other, but if you’ve built a strong foundation, you will likely enjoy a happy and successful partnership for many years.
So how in the world does this translate to office productivity? The wedding is the trivial thing upsetting or frustrating you at the office, and the marriage is your career. It’s not about what’s happening in this moment that’s temporarily troubling you. That’s not important. When you feel slighted by a coworker or if you find yourself fixating on something annoying, it’s just a distraction. When you expend so much of your mental energy on negativity, you’re draining yourself of productivity and starving yourself of growth.
Here are three things I do to refocus my attention on the “marriage” when the “wedding” has overwhelmed me:
- Take deep breaths. This seems too simple, doesn’t it? If I can’t leave my desk to get some fresh air, all I need to do is take a few deep breaths. While I’m breathing deeply, I recite my mantra. I just let it go. Then, I move on with purpose and refocus my energy on the mission at hand.
- Make a list. The problem with focusing on the little things that bother us is how easily those little things can become big things that consume our thoughts and change our mindset from optimism to pessimism. So when I feel scattered, I get out my paper and my favorite pen and I make a list. I usually write my priorities for the rest of the day. Be sure to include at least one task you know you can get done before quitting time so you’ll have something to put in your daily win column.
- Take a walk. This one is my favorites. It’s generally agreed upon that eating lunch away from your desk boosts your creativity and problem solving, but even getting up to take a brisk, two-minute walk around your building can give you the necessary distance to clear your head, forget about the menial diversions building up in your brain, and get your mind right to sit back down at your desk and attack the rest of the day. When the weather’s nice, I like to go outside, close my eyes, take some deep breaths (see #1 above), and smile. I’m fortunate I can actually do this (and I’m not worried about looking silly), but if you can’t make it outside, or if it’s raining, even just a quick jaunt to the lobby gives you a few quiet minutes to yourself to refocus on what matters.
It sounds too easy, and it is, but “easy and effective” doesn’t have to be an oxymoron.
Remind yourself of the big picture priorities, know what motivates you and don’t let those aggravating details get you down.
For more on office productivity, check out these tips.
Anna Taylor is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.
Great post, Anna! It can be so easy to get caught up in and overwhelmed by all of the things we need to do that it causes us to lose focus. Making a list is definitely my first go-to step. I’m guilty of eating lunch at my desk more often than not but will definitely go out for some fresh air next time I am feeling overwhelmed.
A timely and appreciated post, Anna! Thank you. I like your advice on “taking a walk” and how that can boost creativity (the subject of my next GovLoop Blog). I remember working on the V-22 Osprey Program. A colleague and I were putting together a training course that was inherently BORING. Every day we’d go for a walk mid-afternoon. That really helped us break through the monotony and generate some fresh ideas (and burn off some lunch too)! I’m looking forward to your next blog!
I think it is wonderful that your wedding is serving as a guidepost in other areas of your life! You have made it a true rite of passage that crystalized wisdom for you! The advice in this post is something we need reminders of on a regular basis!
Love the fact you were able to tie something so momentous and personal in your life to a broader view in the office and your career. Great post, and great writing!