Do work, instead of talking about it.
Get back into context
- What were you working on yesterday?
- Is it finished? What's left to do?
- What should you do today?
- Are you in anybody's way? Is someone in your way?
Find the flow
Mornings are one of the few quiet moments in an office, and in life in general. Take advantage of that. Start slow, make sure no one can or should break your rythm for at least 1 or 2 hours.
Stand on the summit, look around
Once you hammered out some of the most productive work of the day, take a break when no more critical loose threads are hanging.
Hunger is the enemy of focus
As soon as you feel the growlies take over, try to find a way to slide a bookmark into your flow. Make sure you leave off a not too steep path back to the summit. Your satiated self is a lazy beast.
Don't put your digestive system into overdrive
There's a reason we have sandwhiches, salads and other reasonably-sized portions. Light meals don't sit in the belly for hours, reminding you that your digestive system always calls your brain to say that you're full 10 minutes too late.
Make sure no urgent matter is ignored
Notice, I didn't tell you to check your emails this morning? There's a reason: so you can focus on your work when you can do it best.
That said, it's best not to ignore urgent stuff altogether. The afternoon is a better time to react to unplanned events. You can get back to people before the end of the day, and that's fine.
Don't resist distractions
People assume creativity dwells in quiet times, that it officiates only in early mornings and late evenings. That's a misconception. Creatitity never sleeps. It lurks there all the time, especially when you're not conscious of it.
Distractions are fertile ground for creative thoughts, they are essential breaths, punctuations that allow meaning to emerge from a misty problem you have been trying to evaporate.
You can't replace distractions with work, they can't be converted, they're not using the same cognitive encoding. Regardless, fighting human nature is often a bad idea. You think you have it under control until it rebels against you, it's a smarter bet to live in harmony with it.
If you can't finish today, there's always tomorrow
Nothing should ever make you feel compelled to stay all night at the office. Being on tilt isn't productive, it's self-destructive.
That's not to say you can't be on a roll, but you have to remember that you can't always finish everything. And in environment when you make productive time less of an exception, it shouldn't be hard to get back on a roll.
You can run as fast as you want, you will always need to draw breath. It's going to catch up to you.
Run steady, stop to rest. You'll get there fast enough, and you'll be ready to keep going instead of lying on the floor, a sweaty mess.
Note: I intend on updating this article with any useful feedback, so don't hesitate to provide some to me on Twitter. It was inspired by my own thoughts on productivity, as well as the works of Merlin Mann, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.