I recently listened to a segment from WYNC’s On The Media about the importance of boredom and not relying on your smartphone too much. While I probably won’t be replicating the experiment of forgoing my smartphone for a week and allowing in full boredom, the idea had some appeal to me. At times I find myself frustrated with how much I rely on my phone when I’m bored, or I just use it as an excuse to procrastinate. I’m not even sure when it stopped becoming a tool and became a siren call that I find myself heeding every single day. The notifications designed to make people interact with their phone can become overwhelming. I often find myself turning many of those notifications off.

I’ve also slowly started doing away with using my phone in bed immediately after waking up. I find that so much time is easily wasted browsing social media and not contributing to my own growth, or any plans that I had for the day. Although I’ve just started this practice, it already feels good to do something else in the morning, such as getting immediately out of bed and walking the dog, or exercising. If I don’t keep careful track of my time, it can become easy to waste an entire day.

The hardest habit to break will be reaching for my smartphone when I’m bored or just feeling frustrated. I’m positive that like most people, I pick up my phone from 60 to 100 times per day. I’d like to make each reach of my phone more productive so that time isn’t wasted. In short, I’d like to turn my smartphone back into the tool it was meant to be, instead of a time sink.

 

Have you ever felt like you spend way too much unproductive time on your smartphone? How did you remedy the problem?

Smartphone by Karlis Dambrans of Flickr

Smartphone by Karlis Dambrans of Flickr

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One of the cooler features of my office’s open floor plan is the walking desk. I know, I know exactly what you’re thinking: a walking desk? How? Why? Those were my thoughts and questions as well when we first moved to this floor. I actually spent the first 2 weeks studiously avoiding it–how could I possibly do any respectable work on a desk while I’m walking?

Now, I use it almost every day for about 30 minutes. It’s a desk attached to a treadmill and it has a large monitor on top so you can connect your laptop to it if you want. The speed on the treadmill only goes up to 2.0 mph (which is very slow) and it is the perfect momentum to maintain while I’m working. After I tried it once or twice and got my bearings, I realized that if I save any kind of reading or reviewing for my afternoon “walk,” that seems to be the type of tasks that work best with this desk. Moving the mouse around is difficult, typing is a bit easier but not ideal, and of course phone calls are out of the question. That’s okay, though!

I can’t tell you how good I feel when I finish on the treadmill and realize that I’ve walked 1 mile while at work. I love to use it around 2pm, when I start to hit that mid-afternoon slump, and it drags me right out of it. Also, it faces a window with a pretty fantastic view so I get plenty of light from outside. I know not all offices offer a walking desk, but I can’t stress enough the importance of getting up and walking around or doing some sort of activity during your work day. I use to go up one or two flights of steps in my building if I felt myself getting sleepy or less alert. Any bit of activity helps, honestly! And, believe me, I am the last person to want to get up and move around in the middle of the day–I tend to be a low-energy person who usually gets involved with something at work and doesn’t want to leave it. Ever since I made a point of doing it, though, I feel immensely better for it.

Do you have any ideas or tips for getting up and moving during your work day?

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This is almost exactly what the walking desk looks like in my office.

I’ve been a package auditor at UPS for nearly three months now. When I go into work I still find myself amazed at how different this new job is compared to the job I had for 16 years. It really isn’t like any other hourly job in the building. There are times when the work flows and the night goes by very quickly. There are other times when the work ebbs and there’s nothing to do for long stretches of time, sometimes up to an hour. Since the package auditing area for internationals isn’t considered part of the center, the rules are different. Normally, if there’s no work in an area, you’re sent out do other tasks, such as unloading package trucks. Here, I simply wait for work to arrive and that could mean just standing around waiting, preparing my auditing materials for the packages (filling out stickers), reading training manuals, visiting the company page portal, or talking to co-workers. Being full-time and guaranteed 40 hours per week also adds a new layer of complication. I have to stay and the option to go home early if work is slow is off the table. I can’t help but marvel at how different my working situation is compared to just a few months ago.

(To be honest, I only spend four hours auditing packages, the remaining four hours are spent doing the job I previously had– just on a different shift with different people.)

As for the auditing itself, it is spent mostly memorizing the rules for sending a package internationally depending on the country. (Tip: always stick an invoice with a price for the goods on your package when sending it out of the country through a shipping company. Otherwise, it WILL be opened.) Most audits are simple, however some are complicated. I find myself frustrated with getting to the point where most of the rules just “click” and I simply know how to proceed. Although a new job is exciting, I sometimes miss being in a place where knowing how to complete a task came with ease. I know this is part of getting out of my comfort zone and growing, but I’d be lying to myself I didn’t admit to missing some of that comfort.

 

Do you often miss the comforts of an old job or do you jump right into your new one without thinking of the old?

Trudat Stamper by Steve Chab of Flickr

A stamper. Some co-workers actually have these. I don’t– I wish I did!

Last week was one of those crazy busy, can’t-even-take-a-minute-to-breathe weeks. From the moment I checked my email on Monday morning until I left the office on Friday afternoon, I was doing something. That wasn’t a typical week for me because most of what I was working on were unexpected issues that popped up and I had little time for my own day to day activities that keep my two journals going. In the past 2 years that I’ve been here (2 years?! I can’t believe it!), I’ve come up with a few things that I try to do so that, when I do have weeks like last one, I don’t fall behind on my regular work.

One of the best things I’ve ever forced myseld to do is to spend a set amount of time every day working on my “regular” work. For me, this means that I set aside 30 minutes to an hour every day to work on article proofs and/or copyediting review. This is the kind of work that keeps manuscripts and articles flowing through the production process and I’m responsible for making sure I have fairly low turnaround times for these tasks. It might seem like a burden to interrupt whatever I’m doing to switch to another task for a short period of time, but I can’t tell you how much this has helped me. I actually create an Outlook calendar event for myself where I’m marked as “Busy” and I spend that block of time doing what I need to do to keep my publications on track. This might sound silly, but this even calms me down a bit if everything else I’m working on is stressing me out. Coypediting review and article proofs are the bread and butter of my job–it’s what has essentially been the same from my last job to this one. It’s not that I can do these tasks “blindfolded,” but they are familiar and I typically know how to handle almost every situation that crops up while I’m working on them.

If I spend that chunk of time working, then I feel immensely accomplished at the end of the day. Not only did I handle all of the random things that came up, but I was still able to keep my day to day work on track as well. I feel a little bit like a superhero on those days :).

What do you do when you are in situations where your “regular” work is interrupted by emergencies, problems, or just stuff?

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