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Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

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Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

The Myth of You Can Work Anywhere, Anytime

Thursday, June 11, 2015 @ 06:06 AM
posted by admin
The Myth of You Can Work Anywhere, Anytime - Judith Kolberg, fileheads.net

Picture Source: Picjumbo.com

 

How amazing is it to be able to work anywhere without regard to outlets, wires, walls, offices, or bosses? Latest statistics reveal the average American uses up to 3 mobile devices daily (source: McAfee.com.). The untethering of people to computing has made productivity shoot up. But just because we can work anywhere, anytime, doesn’t necessarily mean we should. That’s because no matter how mobile we are, different kinds of work still require different kinds of environments. Strategic planning, brainstorming, creative projects, and large group work thrives in open spaces with lots of light and windows and plenty of space to spread out. Loud talk, patching in people via Skype, and lots of input that might otherwise be considered interruptive are welcome in this scenario.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is intense, solitary work such as analysis and writing. This is best accomplished in smaller, quiet spaces, such as study cubbies at the library where you turn off your cell phone and interruptions are held to a minimum. A client of mine does her professional reading in the lobby of a local hospital across the street from her office. “That’s where I hide,” she tells me. Another client checks into a hotel for two days to do her taxes. “Only my family knows how to reach me. After working a few hours, I can take a swim, workout in the gym, or get a massage. Meals are convenient and the whole idea of a dedicated place seems to make me more productive.”

Kind of in the middle of the spectrum is purposeful small team or committee work that benefits from a lot of collaboration, decision-making and accountability. This is best accomplished in an environment of small tables, chairs that swivel, and an easy way to take notes or minutes.

The benefits of technology, especially computers, are crucial for any kind of productive work, but the physical environment also plays a huge role. Teachers in classrooms have known this for years. Steelcase recently conducted research on this topic concluding that even an ergonomically comfortable chair on rollers attached to adjustable work surface improves kids’ concentration.

When choosing the best place for working on a task, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the task to be accomplished?
  • What level of focus does the task require?
  • What physical setting would best support the task?

 

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.

 

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

The Starbucks Effect

Work Creep

 

CALENDAR OF UPCOMING ORGANIZING EVENTS

 

Publish15 – June 13-14, 2015

Got a book inside you? Get a book coach! Publish15, an annual convention of publishers, authors, editors, and printers premiers June 12, 13 and 14 at the Forsyth Conference Center, Cumming, GA. Book coach and Publisher Judith Kolberg of Squall Press will be exhibiting. Come visit! Use promo code Pub25 for 25% off General Admission and Workshop passes. Visit Publish15 for more information.

Northern New Jersey Chapter of NAPO –  June 22, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Virtual Chapter of NAPO – August 10, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition – September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH.

National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Annual Conference and Exhibition. May 18-21, 2016, Atlanta, GA

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The Starbucks Effect

Thursday, June 4, 2015 @ 06:06 AM
posted by admin
The Starbucks Effect - How working at a coffee shop can increase your productivity. From Judith Kolberg, fileheads.net

Picture Source: Picjumbo.com

It wasn’t a scientific survey. The results would never hold up under academic scrutiny, but when 50 people were asked the same question and 97% of their responses were the same, it’s safe to conclude you’re onto something. That’s what happened to me when I discovered what I call “The Starbucks Effect”™. I carried a clipboard to make me look official, and a couple of copies of my books proving that I am a published author. Choosing people way in the back of the coffee shop to interview (so I would not attract the attention of management), I put on a big smile and approached Starbucks customers who seemed to be working, rather than just hanging out.

“Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m Judith Kolberg, a local author doing research for my next book about getting organized. My survey takes less than 6 minutes. Mind if I ask you two brief questions?” For those agreeable, I asked: “Do you think Starbucks is a good place to get work done?” If they said, “No” I thanked them for their time and gave them a 10% off coupon on my books. I was looking for the people who said, “Yes, I think Starbucks is a good place to get work done.”

I made a wild assumption that chocolate and caffeine figured high into people’s explanation of why Starbucks is a good place to get work done. But I wanted to understand how a place as noisy and busy as Starbucks could be a good place to accomplish work. Thus, my second question: “It’s noisy in here,” I commented to each of my interviewees over the roar of the espresso machines, clatter of cups and loud din of voices. “Don’t you find the noise and commotion distracting?” To a person, the response was either “No” or “I don’t even notice it.”

Survey results

Is Starbucks a good place to get work done?

Yes          No          Total

38            12            50

Do you find the noise and commotion distracting?

Yes          No          Total

0              38            38

Huh? I’d always thought the best condition for getting work done was quiet places like libraries or cubicles. How can a place as noisy and busy as Starbucks not only be non-distracting, but actually be conducive to productivity? I call it the Starbucks Effect. Using the latest research on the brain and multitasking (check out The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin) I believe it works something like this: The external distractions (voices, people coming and going, clattering plates, etc.) cancels out internal distractions such as random thoughts, ideas, worries, and that mental to-do list we all carry around with us. Once the external and internal distractions are roughly zeroed out, the task-at-hand comes into focus. More support: some people find a quiet environment devoid of activity very distracting. It lets those internal distractions run wild. This explains why some people go nuts in a library or can’t concentrate in a cubicle. I have to turn on a radio or TV when I’m writing in my office. Gotta have some noise.

So my questions to you are:
  • Is a coffee shop a good place to get work done?
  • Do you find the noise and commotion distracting?

 

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.

 

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

An Interview with Judith Kolberg

What Neuroscience Tells Us About Getting Organized

 

CALENDAR OF UPCOMING ORGANIZING EVENTS

Publish15 – June 13-14, 2015

Got a book inside you? Get a book coach! Publish15, an annual convention of publishers, authors, editors, and printers premiers June 12, 13 and 14 at the Forsyth Conference Center, Cumming, GA. Book coach and Publisher Judith Kolberg of Squall Press will be exhibiting. Come visit! Use promo code Pub25 for 25% off General Admission and Workshop passes. Visit Publish15 for more information.

Northern New Jersey Chapter of NAPO –  June 22, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Virtual Chapter of NAPO – August 10, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition – September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH.

National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Annual Conference and Exhibition. May 18-21, 2016, Atlanta, GA

 

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What Neuroscience tells us about Getting Organized

Monday, October 20, 2014 @ 10:10 AM
posted by admin

Excerpt from the Washington Post

We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom for better managing our time and organizing our professional and personal lives. Don’t try to multitask. Turn the email and Facebook alerts off to help stay focused. Make separate to-do lists for tasks that require a few minutes, a few hours and long-term planning.

But what’s grounded in real evidence and what’s not? In his new book The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin — a McGill University professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience — explores how having a basic understanding of the way the brain works can help us think about organizing our homes, our businesses, our time and even our schools in an age of information overload.

Click here to read the interview with Levitin about why multi-tasking never works, what images of good leaders’ brains actually look like, and why email and Twitter are so incredibly addicting.

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How to Develop A Family Technology Policy

Thursday, September 5, 2013 @ 05:09 PM
posted by admin

ORGANIZING TOOLKIT SERIES

We live in the Era of Endless connectivity. We are wirelessly tethered 24/7 to family, friends and fans, co-workers, customers and clients, vendors, suppliers, and perfect and imperfect strangers. One effect of endless connectivity is “work creep.” Work creep is the tendency for work to extend into times typically reserved for leisure such as meal times, vacation time and sleep. The overall effect of endless connectivity is to blur the line between work and leisure. Even leisure activities like sharing family videos on Facebook, Checking your Facebook status, commenting on blogs, participating in LinkedIn Groups, and following people on Twitter all take a little work. They also take time. That time has to come from somewhere. A second effect of endless connectivity is that it diverts time away from quality-of-life activities – like real-time with the family and social activities – to digital activities.

In the Era of Endless, families find it helpful to have guidelines for coping with the temptation to endless work and the time-suck of endless connectivity by creating a Family Technology Policy. The Family Technology Policy lays out agreed upon guidelines to balance the best that technology has to offer with real-time, in-person family and social activities.

Every family is different and so each Family Technology Policy will be different. Take a look at the sample Family Technology Policy as a guide.

SMITH FAMILY TECHNOLOGY POLICY

  • No devices at the dinner table. All devices are treated equally whether it’s an iPad, TV, tablet, iPhone, or anything that beeps, rings, flashes, or has a screen.
  • No screens of any kind open or active after 9 pm.
  • No phones within 10 feet of water whether it’s the ocean, a pool, the bathtub, or the toilet.
  • No texting in front of grandma because it annoys her and she’d rather talk to you.
  • No driver in this family will ever text while driving.
  • Hugs, eye contact, and live conversation will dominate in this family over texts, calls, and technology.
  • If the sun and school are out, you will find us outdoors without our devices.

Consequences:  If the policy is violated, the parents will decide on an appropriate action which may include temporarily limiting usage of a device, curtailment of internet time, putting the device in “time-out”, or other actions.

Step 1 – Have a family meeting

Step 2 – Choose someone to lead the meeting who will explain the need for the policy. (This can be an adult in the family or you can use a neutral third party like a professional organizer.)

Step 3 – Have handy a large flipchart or other visual aid to write on.

Step 4 – Everyone in the family has an equal voice regarding what they think should or should not be in the policy.

Step 5 – Keep it brief. Up to ten bullet points is usually adequate.

Step 6 – Take a vote to officially approve the policy.

Step 7 – Have everyone in the family sign-off on the policy by signing their names to it.

Step 8 – Discuss what will happen if someone ignores the policy or does something that conflicts with the policy. Will there be consequences? Temporarily limiting usage of a device, curtailment of internet time, putting the device in “time-out” are examples of consequences. Write the consequences down.

Step 9 – Post the approved policy and the consequences in a prominent location in the home and send a copy to each family member electronically.

For more organizing tools to cope with the Era of Endless, order the book by Judith Kolberg, Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff is Endless But Time is Not. Available at www.squallpress.net

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How To ‘Stop’ In an Era of Endless

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 @ 06:04 AM
posted by admin

My client, Lisa does not know how to stop. Lisa is a 39-year old university professor.  Like most professors, when it is time to prepare her student’s reading list, she reviews hundreds of books and academic journal articles. That was overwhelming enough, but to ‘keep up’ now, she also has to go through videos, podcasts, and blogs. “I’m afraid I’ll miss something really vital to their education”, Lisa says. She researches and prepares, prepares and researches until the final deadline for submitting the reading list looms close and large. “I have no idea when to stop because I have no idea when I’m done,” Lisa confesses.

It’s a common complaint these days. In the era of endless, information is infinite, but time is not. Time is finite. So at some point quantity has to be qualified.  What is a sufficient quantity to sift thru? How much is enough to qualitatively satisfy a need? It’s increasingly difficult to know.  Too Big To Know by David Weinberger traces the history of facts as they evolved from scarce, isolated foundations of finite bodies of knowledge to the present day where knowledge and facts are common, group-oriented, and readily available.  The concept of rare has gone away in an era of endless when things are equally and endlessly available.

If you find it difficult to stop, here are some tactics you can use:

  • Practice the Law of Diminishing Returns which is the tendency for a continuing effort toward a particular goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved. Or, as a client in Houston once put it, Stop when the lemonade ain’t worth the squeeze.

My client Debra is an HR director for a law firm. Her job is to find qualified prospective attorneys to work for the firm. The longer she keeps looking, the more the open post continues to go unfulfilled. The other attorneys have to add more work to their plate to cover for the unfulfilled position, and the as-yet unhired attorney’s contributions are forestalled. Debra says, “It’s just not worth it to the company for me to keep going and going and going with my recruitment efforts.”

  • Spell ‘done’ out ahead of time. Debra decided to prospect the 10 best candidates as a result of her best efforts exerted over 30 days. Any more effort applied actually diminishes the return.
  • Keep in mind that progress towards closure is a quality of life issue. It is good for your mental health to complete things. David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame rightly observes that, “When we spend a lot of psychic energy on half-closed loops, on things left undone, we waste time and energy that could be put to better use elsewhere.”
  • Ask yourself, outloud, what are the 2 things I can do right now to bring this task/project to closure, to get it off my to do list? It might be to make a call, find something on the web, get a question answered, or take even a small action towards closure.
  • Close before you open especially in the morning.  Finishing something early in the day builds a “meaning reservoir”, an expert on obsessive behavior once told me. Completing just one thing early in the day can give meaning to the entire day.
  • Focus on one or two big wins for the day.
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Work Creep

Friday, January 27, 2012 @ 12:01 PM
posted by admin

A day is still 24 hours long yet there are features of modern work that seem to bend a day a little bit farther over its natural edges, a phenomena I call ‘work creep.” In the name of greater productivity, there are out-of-office conference calls, weekend team building trips, shifts to cover, and time zone differences. ‘ Technology has made it possible to work without an office, without a supervisor, and without regard for time of day. In the absence of absolute clarity about the boundaries of work, the line between our working lives and our non-working life is blurred, and discretionary time is disappearing altogether. 62% of at-work email users check work email over the weekend. 50% check email on vacation. In 2009 Americans threw away 465 million vacation days. And 40-hours is rapidly becoming the new part-time. Add to this mix, the fact that we are in a deep recession where the expectation of working longer hours is the norm, and its no wonder we find it hard to find the time to anything but work.

As a professional organizer and time management expert, I tell my clients that I will find them more time, but not to invest into more work. Instead it will be leisure time that we will actually put into their schedule to rest, relax and recreate. Here is where that time can be found:

  • Use Skpe, web-based meeting programs, and phone to limit face-to-face meetings.
  • Agendize business phone calls, all meetings, and interactions. Write a teeny agenda of what to cover, ask, solve or do at those interactions.
  • Delegate to the machines. Taking time to learn how to optimally use your smartphone, tablet, web tools, software and apps can be a huge return on investment in terms of time you save.
  • Limit social media usage to a hour at a time. Set an alarm. Get up, walk, and then before setting the alarm for the next hour, decide if you can knock off.
  • Schedule leisure, rest, relaxation, and every other kind of downtime. It may sound counter-intuitive to your sense of spontaneity and fun but you’ll find you have the best of both worlds: spontaneity and planned non-work time.

Need more help? Contact a professional organizer who can show you how to manage your time to combat work creep.

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Closure

Friday, November 25, 2011 @ 11:11 AM
posted by admin

In a world of endlessly available, unlimited information, it is not so easy to know when a job has been completed and has come to closure. If you’re doing research, how do you know when you’re done especially when there is so much more information ‘out there’ that could be incorporated into your findings? How in-depth or thorough does a report need to be before it can be considered done? Unlike other kinds of work, knowledge work requires judgment and experience to determine when you have reached the point of diminishing returns where additional work will not add enough value to justify the cost, effort and time. Closure has come to mean not so much when something is ‘finished” as when the tendency for a continuing effort toward a particular goal actually causes effectiveness to decline after a certain level of result has been achieved.

My client Marsha is in HR, charged with ‘prospecting for the best legal talent available’, one of those knowledge work kind of assignments that can go on forever. “I never knew when enough was enough. I attended recruitment fairs, interacted on social media, prospected at law school events…there just seemed no end to the work.” Meanwhile, all that time prospecting for a new attorney meant the open post continued to go unfilled, the other attorneys had to add more work to their plate, and the yet unhired attorney’s contributions was forestalled. “It’s just not worth it to the company for me to keep trying to find the perfect candidates. I’m done when I prospect what I think are the best 25 candidates a month.”

Another factor that affects closure (finishing or completing something) is the extent to which one is taken off task by an interruption or distraction Each day a typical office employee checks e-mail 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times, according to RescueTime, a firm that develops time-management and tracking software. So defend your right to concentrate. If you truly need to close the door, turn off the cell, and leave email unattended for 3 hours, do it. A recent Harvard University study of 600 managers found that the most significant factor in their perception of their best work days were the days when they made progress, the days they were able to move work forward to closure. Their findings are in a new book called The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer. I have a client who puts yellow crime scene tape across her cubby office opening. She doesn’t have a door but the message is clear. Don’t disturb her till the tape comes down. Many companies have a “no devices in this meetings” policy. Find a place to hide where you can concentrate.

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The Leisure Dividend

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 @ 09:08 AM
posted by admin

The point of productivity is to generate a ‘leisure dividend.’ When you are productive you do more in less time leaving you time left over for not working, for having fun or just relaxing. At least that’s the theory. Some people are naturally productive. They can prioritize instantly, integrate new tasks on the run, and finish what they start. Productivity tools such as mobile devices with multiple functions, apps, and cloud-based tools can increase productivity. The problem is people tend to reinvest their leisure dividend into more work instead of into leisure. Only 38% of Americans take all of their vacation days. 72% check into the office during their vacations. You recall Clement Clark Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas? Remember the line “. ..and mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap. Not, “…had just settled down for a long winters nap”, but instead “…had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.” We need to rest our brains. All that information we are getting? It needs to be digested, it needs to sink in, be reflected upon and that requires rest.

How do you measure personal productivity? Some people are taking a crack at tracking all their time using a variety of apps. I think tracking our time holds some value but the time is takes to do all that tracking might be using up any benefit of time gained being productive in the first place.

If you are someone who strives for productivity but has difficulty realizing your leisure dividend, try doing the following

  • Take whatever vacation you have coming to you. Scientists have found that it takes at least 3 days to relax, and to feel you are on vacation, so take at least 4 days.
  • Full engagement in reading is also a good investment of your leisure divident. In-depth, hard copy book reading is a multi-sensory experience involving motor, visual, materiality, and focus that helps us be engaged but relaxed.
  • Exercise promotes weight control, lowers stress, controls cholesterol, and supports a good night’s sleep making it a top choice for investing your leisure dividend.
  • Sleep a little more or learn to nap.
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The New Done

Sunday, May 15, 2011 @ 09:05 AM
posted by admin

My client Ann needs a new car. Armed with a rough budget and some preferences, Ann went online. She visited the best car buying websites, jumped into chat rooms, and used social media to find out what people thought of various vehicles. She checked CraigsList, and downloaded CarPerks to her iPhone (her 100th app!). Once on this research-train, it was hard for Ann to stop. According to the Information Overload Research Group (who knew?!) 53% of people surveyed believe that less than half the information they receive is valuable/useful. Still we find it hard to resist loading ourselves up on information. Not a great screen-reader, or adept at cut and paste pieces of webpages into files, Ann printed out reams of information. “I can’t be sure the information is in there,” Ann said pointing to her head. What began as a virtual search quickly turned into a seemingly unending tangible research project. When I visited Ann for our time management session she’d been at the car buying project for 3 months. Dan, her husband is supportive, but frustrated. “I know buying a new car is a big decision. But I’d gladly trade-in her thoroughness for getting the job over with.”

In an era of unlimited information, the pursuit of thoroughness is more than time-consuming – it’s impossible. There is always another opinion to listen to or another piece of information to obtain. I believe “done” needs a make-over. Here’s what I think The New Done needs to be:

  • It’s not about you. Finishing a task is not about your standard of completeness, but rather about meeting other people’s expectations or needs. Pleasing a spouse with making a final decision goes a longer way than making the perfect decision which doesn’t exist anyway.
  • Learn to live with your decision. Let’s say Ann narrowed her search to 2 cars and chose one over the other. Chances are great that there is so little difference between them that either choice would be one she could live with.
  • Coming through on your obligations and commitments enhances your relationships. Perfectionism and being overly scrupulous might give you a good reputation for being thorough but you’ll risk injuring your relationships.
  • If you think the stimulation of the hunt for perfect answers feels good, wait till you experience closure!

Organizationally-speaking, The New Done requires a few good practices (I’m not much of a fan of “best practices”. The question, ‘best for whom?’ always stops me cold in my mental tracks.)

  • Corralling information is key. Putting it in a form for easy use, retrieval and re-use such as a spreadsheet or a dedicated file is important.
  • Impose a time limit especially if the task had no deadline or due date. Go for perfect timing rather than perfect information/solutions/ answers.
  • Ask someone else to judge if you are done or not.
  • Know exactly what it is people want from you, otherwise you won’t know if you’ve satisfied them.

“He who knows that enough is enough always has enough” – Lao-Tzu

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The Starbucks Effect

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 @ 06:04 AM
posted by admin

It wasn’t a scientific survey. The results would never hold up under academic scrutiny. But when 23 people are asked the same question and 100% of their responses are qualitatively the same, it’s safe to conclude you’re onto something. That’s what happened to me when I discovered what I call “The Starbucks Effect”™. I carried a clipboard to make me look official, and color copies of the covers of my books proving that I’m a published author. With a big smile, I approached people in Starbucks who seemed to be doing work. “Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m Judith Kolberg, a local author of books about getting organized. I’m doing research for my next book about how people get their work done. My survey takes less than 6 minutes. Mind if I ask you a few questions?” Here’s what I asked: “Is Starbucks a good place to get work done?” To a person, each person answered, “Yes, Starbucks is a good place to get work done.” Why? Being away from the distractions of the office or home was a popular response. And the chocolate/caffeine rush figured into most people’s explanation of why Starbucks is better than the office or home. “It’s kind of noisy”, I said commented over the roar of the espresso machine, clatter of cups and din of voices. “Doesn’t the noise and commotion bother you?” I asked. “No” or “I don’t even notice it”, everyone said.

Productivity, simply understood as planning a task and carrying it out, is a huge challenge for many people. I’m always trying to figure out the reasons why some people pull it off more than others. The Starbucks Effect is one key. It works like this. The external noise and commotion cancels out internal distractions so that a person can concentrate on the task at hand. The more scientific explanation for this is ‘white noise’. In other words, some people can’t take in what’s going on around them, listen to what’s going on in their head, and perform a task at the same time. The mind cannot do all three. Something has got to go. Apparently, the noise level at Starbucks is goldilocks – not too high, not too low…just right to not be distracting itself. It cancels out internal distractions such as random thoughts, ideas, worries, mental to-do list and self-talk so that you can do the task at hand: study, balance a checkbook, read a report, fill out a form, or write an article. I’d always thought the best conditions for getting work done are a quiet spot, without a lot of background commotion going on. For some people it turns out that a quiet environment devoid of activity is itself distracting. It lets those internal distractions run wild. If you are a person who finds it challenging to execute tasks from end-to-end, to finish things, or you’re dissatisfied with your level of productivity, maybe the Starbucks Effect can work in your favor. It doesn’t have to be Starbucks. I have a client who does his taxes at the airport!

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