Productivity Theories and how to Maximise Their Effectiveness

Or how to get motivated by enjoying yourself…

If, like us, you spend your days either worrying about being unproductive or trying to cram all your work into the last hour of the day, it might be worthwhile taking some time to research productivity theories.

Problem is, there are just so many theories that it would be totally unproductive for you to look into them all, so we’ve saved you the time and trouble by providing this handy cut-out-and-keep guide on how to become the sort of person your parents boast about, and other people’s parents want to adopt.

Still concentrating? That’s a start. The key to productivity varies for us all, but perhaps a good sleep and exercise regime is all you really need! Or so the majority might have it. Tell that to Proust, one of the world’s most profound and admired authors who spent most of his time in bed, in a dark, cork-lined bedroom, wracked with asthma while churning out what’s widely regarded as one of the greatest books ever written about life’s essential questions.

Then there’s the likes of Elon Musk, who may well be a finely tuned AI robot, judging by his insane schedule, lack of sleep and breakfast, a diet of French food, barbecue, and whiskey and a penchant for Tweeting.

Meanwhile, there’s the equally nutty regime of Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg, who wakes up at 2:30am, hits the gym by 3:40am and is tucked up in bed by 7:30pm.

The point we’re making here is these famous, arguably charismatic and influential people all have routines that work for them. What works for you might not work for your partner or your work colleagues.

But there are some good theories that seem to hold universal appeal – and effectiveness. One of our favourites is the Pomodoro technique, created in the 1980s by an Italian who broke his schedule down into 25-minute segments, peppered with five-minute breaks. He named it the Pomodoro technique after the tomato- (pomodoro in Italian, in case you were wondering) shaped timer he used.

What is clear is that rapid, short periods of dense concentration are more productive.

You settle down to work, knowing that in 25 minutes you can take a stroll around the block or grab some much needed caffeine.

And this take-a-break-to-become-more-effective idea seems to be at the heart of modern productivity thinking. Current thought takes us down a rebellious path away from the hustle; away from the idea that you have to sacrifice all to be an achiever, away from the get-up-before-you-go-to-bed madness of so many famous people like Wahlberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook (a 4am riser) and actress Melissa McCarthy, who falls out of bed at 4:30am just to watch re-runs on TV.

In fact, it goes beyond taking a short break. What the productivity gurus are suggesting now is to rest. To work, rest and play just like the chocolate bar advert from the 1960s!

To admit when you are worn out, when you need help and when you can’t cope.

It used to be all about the hustle. Working around the clock, working harder than that next person to get ahead. Zuckerberg created a culture where we are all supposed to “move fast and break things”. Amazon’s key value is to be relentless – the name founder Jeff Bezos originally wanted to call his empire.

But in comes Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, a man currently more famous for being Serena William’s super supportive husband than for being the force behind the site that pushed Facebook out of America’s top three websites.

A maverick voice among the current crop of work-till-you-drop people, Ohanian recently said ‘hustling’ is a dangerous waste of time. Speaking at the recent Lisbon Web Summit, one of Europe’s largest tech conferences, the tech investor said: “This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding, working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough…this is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now. It’s such bulls**t, such utter bulls**t. It has deleterious effects not just on your business, but on your wellbeing.”

His words aren’t just a rally against the work-until-you-drop macho brigade, either. Science is on his side. And you don’t mess with science, right? Strong evidence has repeatedly proved that not getting enough sleep and exercise is among the worst things you can do for your memory, heart health, and general health. And when we do make time for sleep, studies show we’re calmer and more focused at work.

The best advice for being productive is to do what you want to do. Elon Musk works a 120+ hour week, ignores emails and breakfast because he wants to. Try to code, or design something, or learn to knit for ten minutes every day and you’ll get nowhere if you really don’t want to be doing that. How many times have you failed at a New Year’s resolution because you were trying to achieve something that your heart wasn’t really into?

We’ve studied many, many productivity concepts and tools and deleted many an app that promises to make the day feel like we’re appearing in Limitless, but what’s become apparent is that in order to be your most productive, ask yourself this question: “Is this fun to do?”.

We need to alter our perception of what productivity is. If you wake up tomorrow and feel like binge watching a Netflix series, and that’s what you want to do, then that’s not a wasted day. You’ve spent your day doing exactly what you planned to do. Go with the flow. This is especially important if you work for yourself. If you force yourself to work on a project you hate for nine hours a day, it quickly goes from something you were excited about, to an unbearable chore.

The age-old saying about ‘doing what you love’ still reigns true, but we’ve progressed from that now. Learning to enjoy your work and learning to be fulfilled by doing what you want to do, when you want to do it is important.

Let us share the secret of productivity with you – which as a user or potential user of Areaworks you might have already worked out. It simply comes down to enjoying what you do.

Maximising productivity and efficiency is important to our members, and something we try and assist with within our coworking offices in London. Read our past blogs on how to increase efficiency to meet deadlines and the impact your working space has on productivity. To join our Areaworks family book a tour to come see one of our spaces in Hoxton, Manor House or Colindale (which is opening soon!).