With the practical aspects in place, it's now helpful to consider how to organise your work flexibly. This concerns pacing yourself!
Pay attention to your rhythm
Chronobiology (the science of vital rhythms) shows us that every human organises themselves around a fundamental cycle: the circadian cycle, of about 24 hours. Reasearch has shown that the body doesn’t function in the same way at all times of day. This internal clock resets itself according to signals it receives from the environment: the alternation between day and night, contrasts of noise and silence, heat and cold etc.
Our brain adapts and regulates by alternating between the secretion of two essential hormones: dopamine and serotonin.
In the morning, the secretion of dopamine triggers dynamism and wanting to do things. Its concentration is highest at around eight in the morning and lowest in the middle of the night. This means that we're more productive in the morning.
At around 5 pm to 6 pm, the secretion of serotonin starts. This acts as a sedative. Its flow is interrupted by the morning light.
The balance of these two hormones determines our greater or lesser vigilance and our ability to concentrate.
To organise your days as effectively as possible, you need to know that:
Between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., intellectual performance is at its peak;
Between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. one becomes sleepy, this is the time to allow yourself a nap.
The chance for road accidents and heart attacks increases between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.
Our bodies are also influenced by the fast ultradian rhythm, which means that every 90 minutes, we get sleepy which causes to yawn and lose focus even if we are enjoying the activity.
There are a few things you can do to reactivate your brain and revitalise your body when you get drowsy:
Stretch your legs
Turn your head and neck
Have a hot drink
Vary your activities
In just half a day’s work, you have the means to be more flexible:
Don’t hesitate to change your activity and vary your tasks so that you don’t feel suffocated;
Take your peak efficiency times into account;
Take several short breaks;
At midday, go out to lunch, even if you have to do it quickly.
Chase away interruptions!
The digital revolution has transformed our careers, our way of communicating and collaborating and our habits. Information technology allows us to work whenever and wherever we want. You can be autonomous and not necessarily alone in the workplace.
Carrying out a job in a continuous flow takes less time than short bursts because it takes at least three minutes to get your concentration back which can cause fatigue and a feeling of inefficiency (Carson’s Law).
Whether in a shared workspace, home or office, there’s no lack of interruptions. Be careful to limit them! Some practical advice:
In an open plan office: put a card on your desk, green for available, or red for busy;
At home: tell your children or companions your work schedule so that they avoid disturbing you. Open or close your office door to indicate whether you’re busy or available.
Don’t hesitate to mute your phone and dedicate a time (or place) for answering emails and calls.
Optimise your workspace: tidy, sort, throw away!
Files and documents pile up until they fill all the space available for storing them (Douglas’s law).
Whether the workspace is physical or virtual, it doesn’t take long to find yourself drowning under documents, shared files, emails and other resources. It’s essential to organise your workspace by taking into account the way your brain and your organisation operate. If your desk or your hard drive are cluttered with a mountain of documents, your brain will use part of its capacity to process those files. It's better to get it working on something else!
To gain time, find a filing system that suits you. Then, put away your documents in a pre-set order, allowing you to look for information, data or documents quickly and easily. That will avoid wasting time searching and will reassure you daily about your capacity to retrieve information.
You can, for example, file your various documents by year, by client, by activity etc. Archive the oldest, summarize your data, prioritise current files with a colour code or create templates. In short, have a structure to get a clearer picture and become more efficient.
Documents vary by type and use. One easy and positive step is to organise your files rationally:
Live or dynamic filing: keep current documents that are used regularly close by;
Semi-live filing: closed files, that may be needed during the year and aren’t currently being used can be filed in the office but don’t need to be in close proximity;
Dead filing: the archives (files that can’t be destroyed or that won’t be except in order of hierarchy). They don’t need to be anywhere close.
Sharpen your senses!
Become more efficient by looking around you to notice good ideas and innovations, to seize opportunities and to identify possible threats.
According to Véronique Mesguich, an autonomous worker should strive to be an effective watcher. This means freeing yourself from preconceived ideas and routines, opening yourself to innovative or emerging ideas, considering original ways of working or organising yourself and being inspired by to models for growth.
To do that, you can rely on value-added information sources – without, however, being a victim of infobesity (i.e. information overload) – and extracting what is useful to the development of your activity.
Analysing the information will help you make informed decisions in all fields by relying upon correct and current information content. You can therefore be aware of:
The new technologies (technology watching)
The competition (competition watching)
The lines of business (market watching)
The opinions and advice expressed on the social networks (e-reputation watching)
There are several solutions for automated watching. For example Inoreader (RSS feed aggregator), Scoop.it (content curation platform) and TweetDeck (Twitter watching solution). Some are free and often accessible in freemium models, with a free version that has limited functionality. Beyond the technical tools, watching requires an open, independent and curious state of mind.
We don’t all operate at the same pace or use the same storage method. Take the time to identify your efficiency peaks and to organise your workspace and you’ll feel more comfortable in your work.
A regular look at what is going on outside of you will also allow you to seize upon good initiatives and practices to improve and enrich your daily work.