The last few weeks, I have been struggling to start a particular project. It’s a data analysis project, involving pivot tables and large data sets in Excel. While I acquired all the information and data sets required to perform the analysis, I just couldn’t start the actual analysis. As someone with a multitude of projects on my plate, I always prioritized other projects above this one. Last week, I figured the time had come. I needed to conquer this project! Today’s blog post is a productivity-focused one, highlighting my experience on how I tackled this project while having a blast.
MindstateIf you’ve been reading my blog over the last few months, you have probably seen that I’m a fan of the Mentorbox book club program. Mentorbox has gotten me reading and learning, while optimizing my valuable time. One of my takeaways from last month’s Mentorbox: According to Terry Sjodin, author of Scrappy, showing up is the most important part of execution. To execute on this very project (or any other challenging project), I just need to show up!
Terry’s advice rings true to me, based on years of personal experience. Every time I experience one of these blocks, I always find that it’s all mental. The anticipation of doing the work is always incredibly different from performing the actual work. I knew I just needed to start, and the rest would be great!
Your Home Base
Over the years, I have learned that your primary office environment is not always the most productive space when one is facing a creative block. When I say "office" here, I’m really referring to your home base, the place were you perform most of your work. If you work at a large corporation, this is likely your corporate headquarters. If you’re a scrappy entrepreneur, this could be your garage. If you’re a consultant, this may be the office of your big clients. (If you’re a really busy consultant, your home "office" may even be an airplane.) Your home base becomes comfortable. It’s easy. When things get too comfortable, complex projects that require creativity and a bit more may look intimidating in that easy environment. Your home base may cause your creative block.
Mixing Up Your Workspace
I used to work in a corporate office environment where it wasn’t easy to leave to actual building. The surrounding community did not offer many places to go, and my schedule was stacked with a plethora of meetings. What did I do when facing a block? I’d literally lock myself in a conference room and draw the shades so nobody could see in. I’d only let myself be interrupted for meetings and emergencies. Otherwise, I would stay in that conference room until the work was complete!
These days, things are a bit different, and I have more flexibility over my workspace. In facing my work block, I decided that I would leave my office for the day, by foot. I would walk around the community, take myself to lunch, Starbucks, the local park, and where I needed to go to feel inspired. I would immerse myself in thought, mix work with exercise (fast walking), and enjoy a new work environment. I would not go back to the office or end my day until the work was complete!
It just so happened that I had one of my most productive days ever. I found myself working as soon as I set foot out of the office. I worked straight through lunch. I worked for hours at Starbucks. I truly enjoyed the change of pace and produced some of the best analysis in months. In fact, I finished the analysis a bit early, leaving me extra time to jump into another project, all before ending my work day.
Bursts of Energy
A while back, I wrote a blog post about Time Management Tips for Digital Professionals. One of my tips is doubling down on bursts of energy and getting as much work done in a short timeframe as possible. Mixing up my workspace last week not only conquered my creative block, but also instigated a burst of energy where I produced great work in a short period of time.
A New Habit
Also thanks to Mentorbox, I’m actively analyzing and managing my habits these days. I’m improving bad habits and introducing new, great ones. When I run an experiment like this one and have such great results, it’s easy for me to conclude that I have a new habit for my workweek. Each week going forward, you will now find me spending one day "out in the field". In fact, this very data analysis project has a part two that I’d like to conclude this week. As soon as I have the data set required to perform my analysis, I’m going to take another walking venture into my local community to get the work done while having an amazing day!
Image of workspace © PPC Ian