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Why Ditching Your Desk Will Make You More Productive

Do you really think you will be content, day in and day out working in one place, your trusty notebook, computer and pen in hand, writing down notes faithfully posting them on the bulletin board above your desk?

As a writer I can vouch for the fact that writing in different places gives me fresh new ideas, new ways of thinking and sheds light on problems I have been thinking about for a while. I suspect that this probably applies to other kinds of working activity as well.

Before I embraced the portable life, I manically obsessed about creating THE perfect workplace. I tried the kitchen table, I tried my bedroom study desk, I even tried the coffee table in front of the TV (some very bad choices, I know). Since I’m writing this article today, you can probably guess how that went.

I finally gave up and tried a different approach. I bought a smaller laptop (a MacBook Air, for the curious) ditched my ancient writing notebook for a small memo pad, grabbed my phone, pen and thinking cap and headed outside in search of an exciting new pace to work in.

Having been to the other side, I have come to believe that wielding concentration in a serene, undisturbed place is highly overrated. Only monks and sadhus of old have the luxury to meditate on mountaintops or on the eden-esque banks of a quiet, clear brook. The rest of us mundane folks have to find this esoteric focus in our own backyards as we mow the lawn, as our children clamber over our notes to steal our Swarovski crystal pen, and as they spill bright orange carrot soup over our prized laptop.

My point with all this funny talk is this – the romantic notion of a peaceful, organized bolted-to-the-floor desk is becoming something of an ancient myth.

As an advocate of a portable lifestyle, I beg, implore and empower you to be a new-age renegade! Free your work from the stone, wood, iron and concrete walls of your home or office. March out onto the streets with your laptop bag and smartphone. Infiltrate local parks, seize malls and cafes, and skip through the woods with your iPad to see your grandmother.

Why your workstation is obsolete

It’s boring. Lets face it, sitting at the same desk, decorated with the same post-its, and next to the same bookcase with the same old books everyday can get old pretty fast. Even if you are blessed with an awesome view to daydream out the window. Think of it this way, did you leave your 9-5  cubicle prison to live in your home office/basement prison?

Fresh air boosts creativity. Its easier to describe scenery when birds are chirping around you, trees are waving gently in the wind and your dog is running around sniffing at every suspicious looking flower. Likewise, it is easier to describe a casual dinner as you sit in a coffee shop with its clinking spoons and steaming cups. Even if your setting doesn’t match what you are working on, fresh, new places tend to give you new insights and innovative ideas. At the very least, you get to see something interesting when you look up.

It forces you to focus. If you can train your brain to focus on the work no matter what is going on around you, the irritating noises and distractions will fade into the background and you will be able to get into “the zone” faster and stay there longer.

Portability is awesome. These days I don’t feel stumped by a cluttered desk or if I left my favorite pen at home.  I just open my laptop bag, empty its contents and get to work. No fuss, no mess. And weekend getaways? Its awesome working in a new place without having to worry if u left anything important behind!

Be a minimalist. The fewer items you have, the simpler your life is. Give yourself the permission to ditch the burden of working with more stuff. Instead focus on doing great work. With less stuff around there will be fewer distractions. The best part? You will not be able to use “Let me clean up first” as an excuse and actually get some work done for once.

Six Tips for Creating a Portable Workspace

Invest in a good laptop. I know some of you love working on tangible paper, but the rest of us tech-savvy folks have a distinct advantage. Our laptops double triple, quadruple as a personal assistant, calculator, research, entertainment breaks and music center and the ever-useful post-its. Plus typing is much, much faster.

Carry accessories but make them lightweight. By all means, get a pocket notebook, tiny little colored markers and index cards, but make sure you wont curse every time you have to hoist your bag on your shoulder. A lightweight laptop is a blessing as well. Another great lightweight alternative is to carry a tablet like an IPad that syncs automatically to your main computer when you get home after an adventurous day of portable work.

Carry a trinket you would put on your fantasy desk. I like to keep a small seashell that I collected on my honeymoon. Working with it reminds me of happy, positive, productive times and instantly puts me in the mood for prolific working. I finished my masters’ thesis hanging out with my husband on a coral-strewn beach in Huvahendhoo, Maldives. I didn’t make that name up and the whole experience was much more work than it sounds like.

Don’t forget your charger. You will find it very challenging to get stuff done on a dead laptop.

Practice getting in the zone quickly. Learn to tune out distracting people and sounds. Word sprints, speed reading and other quick, timed activities that require hyper-focus are great for turning off your inner procrastinator and getting down to business.

Bring headphones just incase. You can concentrate and meditate all you like but there are times when you need a helping hand. When I really need to focus, I tune into some gentle music. Coffitivity (www.coffitivity.com) is another great resource for when you need to block out unwanted sounds.Go on, take your work to the streets right now!

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Make Your Best Day Ever A Reality

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The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins. -Bob Moawad.
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Ever sit down to work, and there is so much going on that you don’t know where to start? I used to struggle with beginning new projects because there were so many things flying around in my head that I couldn’t possibly handle them all at the same time.

Writing down all our to-do items and prioritizing the most important ones of the day is one way to clear all the mental clutter, but sometimes when you’re really swamped, long and complicated to-do lists can become a dead-weight around your neck.

In his book, “Your Best Just Just Got Better” Jason Womack talks about imagining your ideal day, then writing down word for word what that would look like in order to be productive, successful and get more out of life. Sceptical at first, I did some research of my own to see if this was true:

Is it possible to visualize an ideal day, where you work productively, and actually enjoy doing so, and then, to go out and make this ‘ideal’ day a reality? Brain studies seem to point to a resounding “yes” to that question.

If you’re a skeptic like me , you’re going to love this article in Psychology Today about Natan Sharansky, an inmate in solitary confinement who visualized the moves in a chess game with himself for years – who –  brace yourself –  actually beat a world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1996.

 

The Power of Imagery

Most of us jump into our day without giving much thought to exactly what we are trying to accomplish. Its funny that many of us are addicted to making elaborate long-term plans, but when it comes to implementing them in the day-to-day, we are incredibly lazy.

Maybe it isn’t laziness, though, that keeps us from taking steps everyday and create conditions in which we can work productively to make our ‘ideal’ life a reality.

Maybe its our recurring thought patterns that keep us unproductive. Brain studies reveal that thinking about an action fires the same pathways in your brain as doing it. So if you’re in the habit of visualizing failure and struggle, that’s exactly what you will get served. The popular book, “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain“,  covered a multitude of studies pointing to the fact that mental imagery influences motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. In a way, your brain is being primed for actual performance during visualization. This simple method of  creating a mental “reset” can enhance motivation, increase confidence, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and get yourself into the “zone”.

So, indeed, visualizing your best day can definitely help you turn it into a tangible reality!

 

Actionable Exercise: Your Best Day Ever!

Envision the best day of your life. Think in specific goals, outcomes or experiences. The day where you can choose to do anything, or be anyone. What will you wake up and do in the morning? What is the weather like, the smells, the sounds. Really get in there and imagine the detailed  elements of the situation as if you were really experiencing them right now.  Engage as many of your five senses as you can while you hold his picture of the ideal day. What are you feeling emotionally? What is your physical environment like?

Now, make a list of these “real” elements. How many of these can you incorporate into your day tomorrow?

My list looked like this:

I wake up, stretch gently, sneak out of the room while the baby is sleeping in the dark room shielded from the bright Indian sun by heavy canvas blinds. Pad to the bathroom where the extreme heat of the shower jolts me awake and refreshes me for the rest of the day. Grabbing my Macbook and iPad, I head down for some Chai Tea while I check on the Liftree website and spend some time attending to my social networks.

Spend some time with the toddler when she’s up, then get dressed and leave to work outside. Previously, I’ve taken my gadgets to work in a gym, a mall, my husband’s office, our home-theatre basement and once, even to a cocktail party where I received strange looks.

You may not be able to do all of these things. Maybe not even most of them. That’s okay. You are stepping onto  a new path towards this fabled ideal life. Like with everything else, it will take time and experience to reach where you want to be.

The most valuable insight I gained form this exercise was that your day can be anything you want to make of it. Obviously, we are all limited by our lifestyles and our means, but rather than use it as a crutch and an excuse, why not stretch out of your comfort zone and aim for what you really want? If you focus hard enough, you just might get it!

 

Reflect on this…

If you really want to be productive, you can be. You need to remind yourself everyday that productivity is a choice. Your desire to reach your dreams must be stronger than the desire to stay in your old ruts, falling back into mental patterns that don’t serve you.  Reflect on the following to get the most our of the “Best Day Ever” exercise:

What will your morning be like? Describe the sights, sounds, smells of your ideal morning. Do you smell coffee brewing, do you sip your green tea staring out at your backyard garden?

What things will need to be in place before you embark on your day’s journey so you can be really productive?

What will it take to keep you motivated and inspired? Music, an accountability buddy, bribing yourself with red-velvet cupcakes. Anything goes!

 

Next Steps

As I leave you with this first article of our productivity intensive, I want you to really start thinking about where you want to start heading in our work and personal life. I want you to start looking at where you are right now, and imagine where you want to be. If you feel comfortable, share  this with us in the comments below: What does your “Best Day Ever” look like?

Our favourite reply will get a shoutout in tomorrow’s post about quieting your mental chatter to make space for productive thoughts.