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Escaping the Corporate Cube Farm

Escaping the Corporate Cube Farm

Time to Moo-ve On?

If escaping the corporate cube farm, living free, earning more, and living life on your own terms appeals to you, then you should definitely keep reading. The organizing and mass production of human efforts humbly began as Henry Ford’s big idea. Henry Ford is the father of mass production and the idea of expendable employees. His legacy created our modern day cube farms. In public schools, we are prepared to be domestic animals herded into cubes, exploited, and put out to pasture with our best years behind us. We buy into this huge, unthinkable life compromise for the promise of:

  • Marginal economic security – now
  • Rapidly eroded retirement dollars – later
  • Ailing health and ongoing doctor visits, because you lacked a purposeful life that reduces your pasture time1!!!
  • And, when you FINALLY have the freest time, you’ll mainly see your friends at their funerals (seated or lying down).

There are only three endings to this story:

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  1. You like cubes and will make yourself indispensable2, because you love it. (Happy Cow)
  2. You just want a pay check – not interested in climbing or growing. (Dispensable Cow)
  3. You hate cubes, want to see more of your freest time now, and produce income that supports your life outside of the cube farm. (Divergent Cow)

If you are #3, diverge with me from the cube farm philosophy, and escape the malodorous stench of office-politic cow pies, big brother policy cattle prods, and straight-jackets constricting our creative and innovative minds. If you’re like me, your cube walls are closing in fast and you are having a Morgan Freeman – Shawshank Redemption moment where you hear yourself say, “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’!” Morgan chose life and so should you. Life away from the cube farm. Here’s some helpful tips and to avoid the slaughter house or a lack luster stay in the “Life-Interrupted-Pasture Zone”:

#1 Compelling

There’s only one way off the cube farm: Under a dark, sewage storm cloud of self-doubt, fear, naysayers, and deprogramming after years of telling yourself – get a job and hang on for dear life. To endure this constant barrage of escape-derailers, there must be a light so powerful that it eclipses the pain of change, circumstances, and anything that can make you turn back. You need a compelling vision that is WORTH enduring the dynamic changes your body, mind, and priorities must undergo to break out and stay out of the cube farm. For some people, it’s creating a new technology, feeding the hungry, starting an enterprise, or improving someone’s life! This vision2 has to grab you by the short hairs, look you in the eye, and say, “Ride or Die,” and you agree wholeheartedly!

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#2 Bridging

As you plan your exit, you must BUILD a bridge that takes you to your happy place. When you think about most bridges, you have a roadway, support underneath, and a good reason to get to the other side, right? In this scenario, your compelling vision is your good reason. What you have to figure out are the road way and support pillars.

Road way

This is all about what you have or can easily get, if you are resourceful. Based on your existing skills, knowledge, net worth, and network, how could all these things fit together and form a bridge you are willing to cross over, after leaving the cube farm? And, when will this bridge be viable. For example, you are a killer graphic designer working for firm “Douche Bag, Inc. or DBI” and you decide you need to work remotely, see the world, and do creative work that DBI won’t allow you to do. You hit your college network, you call in favors/friends, Google flex opportunities, and create a bridge strong enough to carry your existing financial obligations without depleting your savings/company retirement. This means creating and/or borrowing all the resources you need to support this weighty decision. This bridge can be as simple as setting yourself up as an independent contractor4 up to an S/C corporation.

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Support Pillars

These are things you don’t possess, but you need for a secure roadway. They represent all of the additional resources you need after a careful inventory of your “Haves” versus “Have Nots”. For example, most escaped cows don’t have a strong enough business or social network that can provide additional/initial income generating opportunities, housing, advice, introductions, and the list goes on. Back to the graphics designer. This could mean realizing he/she needs to set up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), but doesn’t have a clue how to do it. Or, doesn’t know how to market his/her services on social media. As the old X File saying goes, “The Truth is Out There.” Because I transitioned off the cube farm in 2005 and got pulled back in 2011, I had to learn how to be in business, engage in trial and error, before coming to the realization what I lacked were exposure and connections with those already in my happy place or in need of me being in my happy place with them. Here’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s not enough to escape the cube farm. It is absolutely imperative that you achieve financial viability that trumps ever going back.

#3 Sustaining

On average, most business or entrepreneurial attempts fail in 7 years or less. This can feel like a deal breaker or show stopper, but it’s truly no riskier than having a job that can be remade, moved, or removed at any time! And, the new economy has tons of individuals to corporations looking to extend flexible opportunities, mentor new business owners, and get you engaged in the business of never needing to go back to the cube farm – again. It starts with making valuable connections with people in your career field5 and those who need your skills. This means MAKING time to MEET new people, who you CAN HELP and CAN HELP YOU. This move further strengthens your bridge, while opening up your happy place for business, so you never have to return to the cube farm ever again. Many of my business opportunities come through people I already know, have done business with before, or knows someone who knows me. As I plan my great escape, I will be shoring up my bridge, one more time, and this time for good.

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Good luck and God speed!

References:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201507/how-sense-purpose-can-help-you-live-longer
  2. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2010/04/16/seth-godin-on-apple-dell-and-the-business-of-being.aspx
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=311&v=Eig23J5SByo
  4. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-defined
  5. http://www.directoryofassociations.com/

Featured photo credit: The Bartlett School of Architecture, led by Johan Berglund from 42 Architects. via floda31.com

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John St. John

Blogger, Writer, Leadership Developer, and Purpose Coach

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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