If you are like a lot of digital nomads and globally oriented solopreneurs out there, you may be surprised to learn how many hours you are successful in concentrating on focused tasks at work. An analysis of 225 million hours of work time, from students to software developers and larger organisations who works with information (i.e. writer, developer, designer or manager) has an actual productivity of 12.5 hours a week. That’s almost 28 hours of non-productive time! Unfortunately, there exists a huge gap between the number of hours workers believe that they are productive versus the actual hours that they are productive. And even though these statistics refer to all types of workers, it should be noted that nomads and solopreneurs don’t spend nearly as much time in meetings as their employee counterparts, but do spend a significant amount of time on administrative and organisational tasks.
What are the challenges both digital nomads and solopreneurs face when trying to maximise their work productivity, and more importantly, what are some best practices they can employ to make the most out of their workday? This post will offer a few suggestions.
Overcoming the Optimism Bias
Most people are overly optimistic when deciding how many tasks they can complete in a day. They neglect to take into consideration the amount of planning, communication and distractions that are part and parcel of any task. Psychologists have actually coined this thinking the Planning Fallacy, which affects every type of planning from vacations to real estate projects. Programmers in particular have a similar law, Hofstadter’s law, which states that people have great difficultly accurately measuring the amount of time it takes to finish complex tasks.
There are a few ways to overcome this optimism bias. First, digital nomads and solopreneurs must take tasks and break them down into smaller tasks, estimating how much time each smaller task will take. For example, if your goal for the week is to finish writing an ebook about digital personalisation in ecommerce for a client that will be 5,000 words, you should consider first how long research and the completion of an outline will take. To make your work even more productive, have a plan in place for when there is a distraction or a setback. For instance, if the research for your ebook takes twice as long as you thought, you’ll need to eliminate a meeting discussing the project. Researchers have found that having a plan in place for completing projects ahead of time discourages procrastination and inspires them to get started as soon as possible.
Eliminate Distractions and Put a System in Place
Beyond being too optimistic, many workers don’t maximise their work hours. Emails, phone calls, text messages, and chats with co-workers are only a few of the many distractions digital nomads and solopreneurs will face on any given day. It can take a lot of concentration and willpower to fully eliminate these distractions and focus on the task at hand.
In response to this dilemma many workers face, the Pomodoro Technique was developed as a time management method, which has workers, focus for a full, uninterrupted 25 minutes on any given task. Any thoughts of future or additional tasks should be written down quickly on a piece of paper, allowing the worker to continue on the task at hand. After the Pomodoro session is completed, the worker takes a break; after 4 sessions a longer break is encouraged. The exercise can increase the time spent focused on tasks, allowing you to complete more during a Pomodoro and a more accurate estimate of how long future tasks will take.
Here are a few additional tips for maximising productivity:
Measuring Productivity to Achieve and Surpass Your Goal
If you want to increase your work productivity, start tracking how you organise your week digitally or on paper. Do this for 3-4 weeks; the result will be a real eye-opener. From the time that you have tracked, decide what tasks you would need to accomplish in order to be productive in those 12.5 hours of actual productive work hours. Make sure you are realistic about what you can achieve in that timeframe, scheduling time for tasks such as networking, travel time, administrative duties, and of course taking care of your overall well-being.
Once you review your goals, start tracking again and do you best to achieve those goals. And when you do, be sure to celebrate your success!
Digital transformation advisor | Privacy expert | Cyber anthropologist | Author