Productivity: 70% Work, 30% Conversation

If you’re reading this, then I’m sure you’ve already come across countless other articles on Medium dissecting and “hacking” productivity. If you’re looking for a quick listicle that will share the “Top 10 Ways to Be Productive While On The Toilet,” then you should probably click the back arrow on your browser and keep scrolling.

I intend to share actual insight that isn’t a quick fix.

For roughly six years now, I’ve been freelance designing for all types of people in all types of environments. From working with an international PR firm on a 8-month project onsite to working with an iBeacon tech startup in San Francisco in a retail-based coworking center on the top floor of a mall, I’ve seen my fair share of work environments.

Not my bathroom

I’ve worked from home, cubicles, offices, coffeeshops, coworking centers, and even while sitting on the toilette (don’t worry, I won’t be writing an article with the aforementioned title). After all of this, I still find working around others to be my most productive work environment.

For almost two years now, I’ve been working out of a coworking center in St. Louis, Missouri called TechArtista. I work on the third floor, in the open, collaborative area where people are constantly coming, going, talking, laughing and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know what some of you are thinking. “How the hell do you get any work done when people are always around?” Honestly, it’s not always that easy.

Depending on what it is I’m trying to accomplish, it can be a little distracting. However, I personally thrive around others and even welcome those distractions, when I can account for them.

I constantly tell people about coworking and how TechArtista is one of the few ACTUAL coworking centers in St. Louis. There are other, larger hubs where startups and various companies work, but every time I venture out and visit these places, I never see successful collaboration in practice. It ends up feeling like a library where open conversation is frowned upon.

What qualifies “successful” or productive coworking? Scroll back up and take another look at the title of this article. That’s right. In my mind, productive coworking (or any type of working for that matter) is 70% productive work and 30% productive conversation. How is this possible?

Let’s look at the extremes. If you were to keep your head down and work 100% of the time, you might get shit done, but when you come up for air, you may realize that you are nowhere near where you wanted to be.

If you were to talk with others 100% of the time without putting in hard work, the outcome would be fairly obvious. You would be left with infinite insight, but nothing to show for it.

How do you account for both of these ingredients in the recipe that is a productive work/life balance? Just like anything else in life. You intentionally plan it.

I don’t necessarily mean blocking out exact hours in your Google Calendar to talk with others. Depending on where you work, some of the most insightful conversations can happen organically. I’m suggesting tracking general hours each day and figuring out your own work/conversation breakdown.

Do you typically talk with others during lunch? Do these conversations generally involve more depth than weekend shenanigans and workplace gossip? Great. Add this to your “conversation” ledger. Personally, I focus on conversation that informs what I’m currently working on. Whether it’s designing a new app or brainstorming a topic for my next Medium article, I always tend to ask open-ended questions that allow others to give me insight.

Once you do receive this insight from others, it is time to put your head down and get back to work. However, now you have a renewed sense of purpose and direction while working. This is where this breakdown really shows its worth.

Whether or not you personally agree with my 70/30 breakdown, the point is both have to exist in order to remain continuously productive. In my professional life, my hard work informs the conversations I have and vice versa.

But what do I know? I’m only one person. This is obviously not meant to serve as a “law of productivity” or anything close to that. It’s simply one person’s perspective that is hopefully a starting point for further conversation. Let’s just hope that this conversation will be a productive one.

What are your thoughts on the above breakdown and living a productive life in general? How do you balance productive work and productive conversation? Leave any comments or insights below, reach out on Twitter at @williamfrazr, or shoot me a message.

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I’m a designer and writer who enjoys making people smile.

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