(I’ll be doing a series on productivity. This is the first of the 3 part series.)

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The truth is, we are not working all 8 hours of our day. The bigger truth is, we probably spend half of our days trying to get into the work zone. We probably have a chat, take time getting water or read something else just to get in the zone.

Should we be worried that we’re not doing anything for 2, 3, 4 hours a day?

I’d say no. Here’s why:

The problem with traditional work is that a lot of us are expected to be productive for a full day, because everyone was expected to be productive for a full day 50 years ago. Thing is, back then, a lot of them were doing manual, repetitive tasks. An assembly line was expected to make 10,000 buttons a day.

Pick. Inspect. Segregate. Pack.

That expectation just doesn’t apply to the more design-based, creative tasks. Even the best people need breaks. This is why there are productive and non-productive hours. This is why it’s okay not to be productive for every hour of the day.

We are human. We have attention spans and various interests. Things always catch our attention, whether it’s the bird by the window or footsteps down the hall. We always get distracted.

We can’t stay in a white-walled room with no windows for 8 hours (hey traditional companies, I dare you to try this in your offices). We need the scenery, the fresh air, the sunlight every so often.

But you know what? We can work in that white-walled room for 1, 2 or even 4 hours. We can set our focus and get things done in smaller portions of our workdays. My officemate recently tried facing the wall while working. She’s been able to get loads of more work done, but she also gets away from the laptop, too.

We are humans, not machines. Have you tried keeping your computer on for a week? It’ll overheat and start hanging. Even machines need rest, too.

Personally though, I find no joy at work when I end the day unproductively. I tend to dread tomorrow more, because I know I’d have to play catchup. Yes, it’s okay not to be productive for every hour of the day, but no, it’s not okay to be unproductive at the end of the day. Every day must count.

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Here’s an idea: why not have an actual workroom? On TED, it was theorized that work doesn’t get done in the office. Why not have a workroom with no internet, just plain white walls, and terminals to plug laptops in. These terminals should face walls, not each other. If there are recreation rooms, there should be workrooms.

White walls and simple interiors for better focus.

Our real desks will be for keeping (more often than not) unneeded printouts and doing boring tasks, like email. Better yet, let the desks be the recreational areas, let the workroom be the real workplace. Enter it when you need to do something, leave when you’re done. The sanctity of that placed must be kept. No librarians shushing people. Just people minding their own business. If you try it, tell me how it goes, thanks.

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