Ignore Your Schedule to Increase Productivity

In my last article, I told you how to ramp up your productivity by creating and sticking to a schedule.

This time, I’m going to share with you how you can boost your productivity by ignoring your schedule.

No — I haven’t gone crazy!

Let me explain by telling you a story about my cats. Don’t worry, it’s a short one …

My three cats thrive on their schedule. Nap time, feeding time, play time, and nap time again all happen at the same time each day. If anything upsets their routine, they are quick to express their displeasure.

At least, that’s how it was until one day last January. You see, I live in south Florida where it’s warm all year round. But, once or twice each winter, it gets chilly. And last January, we had a cold front move through that dropped the temps by over 30 degrees.

After it got cooler, I noticed something very odd … My usually lethargic cats suddenly became very energetic. They were wide awake, roaming the house, chasing each other, and playing with long-ignored toys. I thought maybe it had something to do with the cold, but wrote it off as another case of weird cat behavior.

A few days later, when it had warmed up again, my husband and I decided to rearrange our home office. We pulled all the furniture out of our spare bedroom, went through stacks of books and papers, and organized the closet. For two days, the space was in chaos. And, the cats were in the middle of it all, excitedly exploring every nook and cranny, playing with dust bunnies, stray paper clips, and bits of paper.

I was amazed. What was causing my normally sedentary cats to act like playful kittens again?

I tried to ask them about it, but they didn’t have much to say on the subject. I think I have it figured out, though. They were energized because things were different.

It’s like when you go on vacation. Ditching your routine, experiencing new sights and sounds, and leaving your familiar environment can energize you and help you see the world with fresh eyes.

In fact, experiencing something completely different from your normal life can change your perspective and open up your creativity, making you more productive. It’s like when you’re stumped by a problem you’re working on. If you get up and walk away from it for a while, and do something else, often the answer will “magically” appear to you.

Distancing yourself from your daily routine can give you a fresh mindset. A vacation may be just what you need to recharge your batteries and get you excited about work again.

But maybe you can’t take a vacation right now. If you have to go to work, or you have writing projects due, you probably can’t take the time off.

That’s okay! You can still get that “vacation feeling” without missing a deadline. With minimum effort, you can change up your schedule a little or a lot, or even throw it out the window, and still boost your productivity.

Here are five ways to do it:

  1. First of all, you can change your scenery. If you have a laptop computer, go to the library, a coffee shop, or anywhere that has free Wi-Fi to do some work. For the more adventurous, go someplace without a Wi-Fi connection for a couple of hours and get some work done without the distraction of email and the Internet. This change of scenery is an easy way to get a quick mental boost without disrupting your schedule too much.

    If you’re a homebody like me, you can still have a change of scenery without going anyplace. Instead of sitting at your usual spot at your desk, find a different place to work.

    I like to sit on the couch, at the dining room table, or outside on the back porch. This has an added benefit by getting me up and out of my usual seat and changing the position and angle that I look at my computer screen. I’ve found that when I work in different spots, I’m less likely to get shoulder and back pain.

  2. Rearranging your work space can also spice things up. You can do a full remodel by updating your desk, chair, and repainting the walls. Or, simply move your desk so you can look out a window, or hang something new on the wall in front of you, like a photo or painting that you love.

    Having something new to look at can make your work space seem fresh and inviting again. This is an option for those who are tied to a desk, and can’t roam freely about their workplace.

  3. For a different kind of a change, try rearranging your schedule for a day or two. I know in my previous article I said that a sticking to a schedule is important. But, you can still change it up once in a while. By switching things around, you can change the feel of your day and make things interesting. For instance, if you normally write in the morning, block off some time in the afternoon instead. You might even find a routine that suits you better, too.

  4. Spice up your social routine by planning an evening out with friends or a date night with your significant other. Have you ever noticed how you get a lot done just before leaving on vacation? Well, looking forward to evening plans can have the same effect. There are multiple bonuses here: reconnecting with friends and loved ones, becoming energized by doing something out of your normal routine, and not affecting your deadlines because your plans are for after work.

  5. Taking a day off, or even just an hour, can do wonders for your creativity. Take a “staycation,” a vacation without going far from home. Check out a park, museum, or shopping area nearby that you’ve wanted to visit. Or, you can take an hour break during the day to get out and do something different.

    For office workers, try going someplace different during lunch. It’s amazing what an hour away from the daily grind can do for you. You’ll return to work in a much better frame of mind, and get more done during the afternoon.

The next time you need a boost in productivity, change your normal schedule and workplace a little — or a lot. I think you’ll be amazed at the results. In my next essay in this series, I’m going to talk about how being a morning person, or a night person, or somewhere in-between, can boost your productivity.

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Published: February 24, 2012

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