Monday, September 10, 2007

How do you work?

I am, I'll admit it, a bit of a multitasker. Oh, okay - A LOT of a multitasker. And I know that it's bad, and I know that it's less productive, and I know what all the personal productivity experts say - but still, I just can't help myself sometimes. On the other hand, I'm also a compulsive break-taker. I think it started in the years I spent stuck in jobs I hated - I'd be very productive for about 45 minutes, take a 5-10 minute break, then get back to the "salt mines" (read: mindless production work and/or GASP! data entry). And I was fast. And efficient. And my bosses HATED IT.

Now that I work on my own, I still find myself multitasking - and taking a lot of breaks. And for a long time, I have felt really guilty about this habit. I feel like I should be billable. I feel like I should be "working." I understand how my former bosses felt. I feel that way too - about ME.

But tonight (well, the other night by the time I post this), while relaxing in a Maine bed and breakfast waiting for my boyfriend to return from a bachelor party - we're here for a friend's wedding - I noticed something. If I just let my mind switch when it needs to and I don't judge it, I'm actually remarkably productive. Thus far in about three hours, I've completed SEVEN blog entries (which will be posted over the next week or so), made several comprehensive to-do lists and organized them by category (so I can access them more sensibly), finished two testimonials that have been waiting for me to do them for about 2 weeks now, played 2 rounds of BeJeweled, and finished reading a book I started last week.

The difference? I'm relaxed, and when that happens, things flow better. This is the problem with pushing myself to be "productive" all the time - most of the best creative ideas come when you're just chilling out. And now, well, I get to do the creative stuff (almost) exclusively. So I HAVE to relax.

The key, I think, to productivity isn't in how many lists you make, or in doing things the particular way that this or that "expert" recommends - and it's certainly not always in the way that your boss insists that you do it. It's in knowing yourself, and knowing how you work, and making that work for you. From now on, I let myself take the breaks. As long as I can focus when I need to, and break things into manageable bits, I know I'll be just fine.

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