Need to Get Things Done? Think Again about Going to Work

In the opening episode of Mad Men, we see top marketing executive Don Draper sitting in a bar, furiously scribbling on a napkin. If you’re familiar with the series, you’ll know Draper is not without flaws, but his decision to leave work so he can focus on a vital product pitch is inspiring. Throughout the series (and on Twitter) when important deadlines loom, his first instinct is to escape the daily distractions of the office.

Of course, escaping from the interruptions of work isn’t just something highly effective fictional characters do. Jon Favreau, the precocious young speechwriter of a certain Barack Obama, wrote the first draft of the U.S. president’s inaugural address in a Washington café, insulated from the distractions of a highly charged office. Although Favreau probably used a laptop or even a smartphone rather than a napkin to capture and shape the key points of Obama’s historic address, the same principle applies. Needing to get something crucial done, he left the workplace behind.

Here’s what I think we can learn from this.

Question the old.

Like Favreau, many of today’s successful flexible workers are likely to be found in a café or co-working space with coffee, laptop and smartphone in tow. Others work from their kitchen table or a park bench.

In a sense, regardless of location, they have all broken with convention. A common assumption is that we’re more easily distracted outside of the office – that real work doesn’t happen there. In fact, as recent research suggests, the classic office environment is full of its own distractions, each of which can be an obstacle to productivity. Question the prevailing wisdom and new possibilities present themselves.

Use the technology.

Using flexible working applications, it’s now incredibly easy to create a digital office environment that is instantly accessible via laptop or smart device, giving every employee in an organization the option to work and collaborate from where they feel most productive.

Meetings can be hosted remotely and projects can be shared and managed in collaborative online work spaces. The simple fact is that we don’t have to be in the same space, or even in the same time zone, to produce our best work, whether individually or as part of a team.

Change it up.

New to flexible working? Unlock your potential by carrying out your own flexible working experiment. This month, try working flexibly for a few days and see if it helps with your productivity. I’m confident it will.

Photo credit: simplybike