The CTA Austin office (#CTAATX) is constantly abuzz; anyone who knows anything about the A/E industry knows we’re busy folks. Whether churning out design options or juggling last-minute client requests, we have probably all had the thought “I wish I could add another hour or two to my day.” Since we have to make do with the 24 hours we’re given (unless we move to Mars), we decided to put a little time towards finding gains in productivity and efficiency — so we made it the topic of our most recent CTAATX Incubator Forum.
A few of us shared our struggle with getting good, adequate sleep and the journey back to healthful sleep habits. Below are a few strategies we’ve tried. Plus, see Arianna Huffington’s humorous TED talk.
- Banish tech from the bedroom: put your smart phone and laptop away well before bedtime.
- Manage your intake of caffeine; it stays in your system up to 4-6 hours.
- Spend time to purposefully wind down with breathing techniques or guided meditation.
- Give yourself adequate time; sleep moves in progressive cycles, and descending into deep sleep takes time.
Exercise is proven to increase blood flow to your brain, sharpen memory, and improve concentration. Food is more than fuel! We all realize no one makes good decisions on an empty stomach and have all had those post-lunch-and-learn drops in energy (AKA food comas). A healthy diet begins by make your eating decisions before you get hungry. Another tip is having small snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels even.
A number of us live and die by to-do lists, and there are plenty of apps, websites, and software available to move you from post-it notes to the digital age. The Kanban method was discussed; it further breaks down to-do lists into To Do, In Progress, and Done columns. Resources on this front include:
Interruptions and Disruptions
Work is similar to sleep in that it goes in phases, and if you can “get into the zone” while working (akin to falling into a deep sleep), you will be more focused and productive. Regular interruptions mean we typically work in a mode or phase that is not as effective for deep focus. If you need focus: close your email, go to a different desk or work area, or work remotely! Be mindful of disrupting other people. We are in a dynamic, collaborative environment, but be cognizant of others’ need for focused time.
Another suite of tools limits distractions and helps get you back on task:
Find a process or cycle that works for you: from hitting reset on nights and weekends to updating your to-do’s and timesheet before you leave for the day, having a process in place and letting it work for you helps alleviate stress and keeps you moving forward.
Focus on staging brief but productive meetings. All meetings should have an agenda and a calendar appointment. Also, a helpful trick — implemented by at least one of our tech clients — is to “give back time.” in lieu of letting meetings run past time, actively try to wrap up a meeting before its scheduled end to give time back to attendees! Also, mix up meetings; gather at a standing height table, or even take a walk!
I love what it says about our company culture that we spent time discussing holistic, healthful, and balanced topics such as sleep, health, and exercise before tackling the topic of productivity and efficiency directly. The realization of a proper work/life balance is different for everyone, but a happy, healthy employee is the most productive employee!