The Professional Coffee Taster

coffee taster sjdThere’s a lot of talk over the intertubes about productivity.

How to get it, how to keep it, what to do if you’ve lost it.

Most of the advice is sound, although as can be expected some of it can, quite frankly, be bonkers. A recent Guardian article/review gave some sagely advice on the daily routines of history’s most creative minds… pretty damn cool and I may try some of them, although sitting around in the nude at this latitude would not only be bad for productivity, it would offend the postman. And a cocktail at lunchtime may seriously impede on any type of productivity at all in this house – although Scott Fitzgerald did ok with it (and I do have a rather fantastic cocktail book on hand).

Nope. Productivity begins at home. And after a conversation this morning I have come to the following conclusions.

Working a ten-hour day is bad for you.

Yup, there… I’ve said it. After a week recently where I put in 48 hours of work, and did a back-to-back ten-hour-a-day weekend, I can with all confidence say that working long hours is not good.

On the surface you are a blaze of productive fire, burning away the hours, slicing through the work and getting it all done. But in reality, no matter what you think about it, working such long hours is nerve-wrenchingly, back-achingly, eye-strainingly, idiocy-inducing rubbish. Deadlines be damned, it’s just not going to help you in the long run.

key to productivity

Apart from the usual health problems it can cause, I realised by the Monday night that it turns your non-worky brain to mush. The words I read in my play script when attending an evening rehearsal were just… words. On a page. Staring at me. As I looked at the page (by now it was laughing at me) I realised that although my work over the weekend was sound, taking my eyes away from the screen resulted in a type of word blindness… I could see the page but the brain wasn’t engaging.

So, don’t do it. Even if you take regular breaks, any more than a standard day is stupid, and some jobs demand an even shorter day. For example, if you’re working your way through an unbelievably complex manuscript, either go and do something else for a few hours and split your day into two, or just down tools every now and then and do a half day. Yes, it is possible, your client wants the best, and you won’t give your best with a half-working brain.

Be a professional coffee taster

Perhaps its time for a change of beverage m'dear?
Perhaps its time for a change of beverage m’dear?

Everyone has their own way of working, and, as a result, their own productivity markers. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you.

Working from home has massive advantages, and one of them is finding out what works for you, not your favourite creative, or the high-flying entrepreneur who has taken over the world with his vision and insight, or even your evil ex-colleague who seemed to have it all and was your reason for leaving sane employment in the first place.

Take a minute… think back to when you last had a really great productive moment. What brought it on? Was it a quiet office, your favourite music tinkling in the background or the sound of the crow that sits on your chimney and serenades you just as you settle down to work (just me on that one then?).

No-one else can tell you what makes for a productive day.

coffde timeMe? I could be a professional coffee taster. The smell of freshly brewed coffee, the ritual of putting it into my favourite mug and taking the first sip…that’s what sets off a productivity streak in this office.

I do, however, now have a serious caffeine addiction.

So think… what is your productivity trigger? You KNOW you have one!



Productivity be damned

Finally, there’s one thing that sometimes gets missed… but not in this house.

In a world of being constantly plugged in, we are bombarded with advice on how to work better and longer, how to meet those deadlines and how to be ultra-professional.

Ok... you don't have to go snowboarding, but you get the drift.
Ok… you don’t have to go snowboarding, but you get the drift.

Well, that’s all very well, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow, down-tools and chill. Now I’m not saying trash your deadlines or diss your clients – remember we are working together towards common goals. But if your deadlines are nicely spaced and realistic, if you want to be your best and give your best… well sometimes you need a play day.

If you really, really aren’t in the mood, if you just can’t settle and if that boxed-set of [insert your favourite down-time fun-fest viewing] is calling, give in.

Yes. Give in.

The occasional afternoon/morning/all day bunk-off is good for the soul.

Don’t feel guilty, it’s your time and you have no-one to answer to. As long as the work gets done, when it gets done doesn’t matter. You may suddenly find the work muse calls at 8am on Saturday morning, or you may find that she leaves you floundering mid-week. Going with the flow aids productivity in the long run, so guilt should be left outside the back door when an unscheduled day off comes calling.


1. How to get it – take note of what works for you and no-one else. Don’t listen to the doubters who think working in your giraffe onesie while drinking banana milk is unproductive… if it helps you through the day, and helps your workflow, then it is productive.

2. How to keep it – go with the flow, do what feels right. If you need to nip-off to the health-food shop for some Bombay mix halfway through the day, do it. If a two-hour lunch break, watching old episodes of the IT Crowd, helps you get back to work with a skip in your step, then do that too.

3. What to do if you’ve lost it – refresh, revitalise and recuperate. If productivity is lacking, retrace steps 1 & 2. Try something new (perhaps change to your panda onesie and a cola float), take a walk where you can commune with nature or try working in a new area of your office. Think out of the box (and if you are in a box perhaps that’s why your productivity is dipping?). Do what needs to be done to get back into the swing of things.

At the end of the day, tailor your working practices to you, and no-one else.

Now I’m about to take the day off… the Falling Skies box-set is calling.

falling skies

7 Comments on “The Professional Coffee Taster

  1. I was going to say something but then I saw you had gone blonde!
    You are right – of course, but sometimes you can’t get out of it.

    • lol… blonde just soooo isn’t me John 😉

      Yup, sometimes you just can’t…but on those occasions, you have to either save up time for later to chill… or vow never, ever, ever to do silly hours again (and we know THAT works, don’t we?)

  2. So true – I study at home instead reading rooms at college. Although I have not a giraffe onesie (?), I know what you mean! My workspace would be a horror to some of my colleagues, but it fits me.

    • Whatever makes you comfortable is fine… I know my colleagues would roll their eyes in horror.

      Stay productive Uli 🙂 xx

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