What would it be like to work without interruptions like meetings, calls, and people stopping by? And without distractions like email? For a lot of people, it’s like working on December 31st.
If your office is like mine, it gets more and more empty after Christmas. The only people working are those without excess vacation time, kids out of school, and out-of-town relatives requiring a visit or visiting. Everyone else is gone, leaving the office and the email inbox eerily quiet. If you work in a business that has end of year panic, like retail or sales/financial, then maybe (if you’re lucky) this quiet date happens just after the calendar year close.
Given the choice, I’d prefer to take off a date just after New Year’s when I’m dodging a war zone, rather than the quiet dates before it. For me, the days from Christmas to New Year’s are the easiest working days I’ll have!
Then again, I’m not as productive as I imagine I’ll be with no interruptions. Without the pressure of trying to get something done before a 3:00 meeting – or the need to feel productive you have coming out of that boring 3:00 meeting – less gets done. Time can seem to drag without timed events anchoring your impression of its passage.
A bit of hubbub seems to help my productivity. In fact studies have shown that a bit of chatter can help creative thinking. For example, a study described in the NY Times blog said:
In a series of experiments that looked at the effects of noise on creative thinking, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had participants brainstorm ideas for new products while they were exposed to varying levels of background noise. Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels. … The benefits of moderate noise, however, apply only to creative tasks. Projects that require paying close attention to detail, like proofreading a paper or doing your taxes, Dr. Mehta said, are performed better in quiet environments.
One other advantage of all those scheduled and unscheduled interruptions: they keep me from snacking too much. Oh well, maybe I’ll get some reading done on the exercise bike after New Year’s.