Struggling with productivity?

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Today’s blog post is somewhat of a different one. You could perhaps argue that it is even non-technical but bear with me, there is a strong relationship to technical work on the topic of productivity.

One of the things we often read about in blog posts, see in YouTube videos or any other form of social media when it comes to being a technology professional, is the importance of taking regular breaks. Even outside the realm of technology, the ergonomists constantly tell us about the mental and physical health benefits of taking regular breaks.

And (perhaps like you) I have always managed to convince myself that I was indeed taking regular breaks from my work, but in reality that was not happening. When you spend all day in front of a computer, the definition of taking a break becomes very loose. Rather than stepping away from the desk and taking a genuine break, over the years my definition of taking a break has been to grab a quick cup of coffee, or move from one (technically-focussed) tab on my browser to another tab on my browser showing the weather, the news, or some piece of nonsensical attention grabbing piece that is so easy to find on the Internet.

But with the recent travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided it would be a good time to get a dog. As a child, our family always had pets, either cats or dogs, and I was keen to revisit that – not just for myself but also for the benefit of my children. I have always thought it important for children to learn how to look after a pet because it teaches them to be more selfless, ie, that sometimes the needs of others take precedence.

So I have fostered a greyhound and now my regular breaks actually have to be a genuine break from the computer. It might be just patting the dog, feeding the dog, and every morning and evening the dog gets a walk around the park outside my house. And I’ve made a profound discovery. Unlike my previous definition of “taking a break”, these genuine physical detachments from the computer desk has really transformed my productivity. Mentally I am much more refreshed for longer periods during the day, and I find tackling tougher challenges, such as complicated AskTom questions, to be much more manageable.

Hence my advice is – if you are a computer professional and you are currently housebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I can highly recommend considering getting a housemate in the form of a four-legged friend. You may think it would be a disruption to your working life, but in my case (and I think in many people’s cases) it will actually improve your working day.

Please don’t misinterpret this advice. I know that travel restrictions will slowly relax over time and I will probably be travelling again. Do not forget the mantra we were always taught as children when we pestered our parents for a pet: “A pet is forever!” I am already putting into place a support network of friends and family to make sure that my dog will always have a happy environment, even when my travel commitments resume at an unknown time in future

Thus, the more legs in your working household, the more productive you may be! And this … is Bailey Smile

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2 comments

  1. I agree Connor, it really helps productivity to take a real, honest break – and a pet is one way to help that happen. But as you point out, if you get a pet you need to think about the whole deal and how you look after it for all it’s life.

    We got a foster cat in January. You don’t take cats for a walk (well, not most cats!) but I go and spend time with the cat every day – initially to help her settle and now just because, well, it’s a cat and I like cats. I’m doing a contract at the moment and I could spend all day at the screen (part of me wants to, it’s for the health service) but I have breaks, real breaks. A couple of times a day I go get a cup of tea or coffee and go find the cat. She does not like tea or coffee. But she likes to be given a bit of fuss or played with for 20 mins.

    And it gives me space to rest the brain, focus beyond a screen, move my limbs and back. And then I’m good to go back to the computer again.

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