I read Tony Schwartz's The Way We're Working Isn't Working recently (and after my last post, yes it was on the Kindle). Some of it irritated me and much of it I couldn't relate to (not being a high-powered AMERICAN executive who works 15 hour days), but after Scott blogged about the meditation app he found useful, I thought I'd post some thoughts on what I did take away from it.
The first is that napping is good! I like an afternoon nap, but in an open plan office the sight of someone sprawled across their desk with a small puddle of drool congealing by the keyboard is, for some reason, deemed unacceptable. He advocates a 90 minute full on sleep, which is pretty much impossible to fit in, but I do find when I'm working at home a quick 10 minute nap is enough to revitalise me. I don't suppose in these financially straitened times a campaign for more napping in the workplace will find much support but he has some strong evidence that it is much more productive to do so than to carry on through.
Secondly, he proposes working in 90 minute creative bursts, without distraction (we are nowhere near as good at multi-tasking as we think we are he argues). I tried this recently when I had a week of study leave to work on my digital scholarship book. I parcelled the day out into 90 minute chunks and during these I turned off twitter and email and wrote. At the end of 90 minutes I would make myself stop, go away from the desk for half an hour and do something else (walk the dog, have lunch or nap). It worked very well, I wrote a lot in that week and I maintained a high level of concentration and felt more focused.
The rest of the book has advice on eating, self-esteem, taking holidays, etc which are things I don't worry too much about anyway. But it did make me appreciate that we don't often reflect on our own working practice, it is too often something imposed on us by meetings, physical environments and deadlines.
However, there are times when I don't mind working in the distracted, channel-hopping mode he deplores. For example if I'm doing a task that is tedious (completing a research proposal say), then I like to be dipping in and out of twitter, following links, reading other bits in between – it makes the task more bearable. Whether it makes me more productive is a different matter, but if it means I get the job done with sanity intact, that is good enough for me. And it also helps to mix up something mildly creative (even crafting a jokey tweet) with something laborious, possibly even making the output of the tedious task better as a result.
So I don't think it's a matter of having one way of working, but rather of having ways that suit different requirements. And with that platitude I shall take my nap…