The Workplace Popcorn Productivity Hack

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The workplace popcorn strategy has been one that I have been implementing for years, but have only recently learned there was a name to it.

For all the go-getters out there with lengthy to-do lists, you might relate to hitting a wall in your work. You sit in your home at your desk for hours on end and just can’t muster up the energy after a while to keep moving forward.

You might be a student in college studying for your exams, a professional working on the weekend to finish up projects, or a side-hustler trying to use their free time to build another source of income.

Whatever the case may be, you find that staying home and working endlessly has become hard to do and your productivity is plummeting.

Well, you can use the workplace popcorn strategy to give yourself a boost.


The idea behind the workplace popcorn strategy involves dividing your lists of tasks you need to work on into groups. Once your tasks are grouped, you pick a different location to complete each group of tasks. 

Yes, it sounds simple because it is. But the positive effects on your productivity are profound.

For each location, you’ll work on those tasks until they’re done, making sure that no group of tasks exceeds 2-3 hours to complete.

The name “workplace popcorn” references the popping around from one workplace to another.


1. Create a list of to-do items

Let’s imagine you are a student in the Finance program at your university. It’s nearing the end of the semester and your to-do list is packed with things to work on and study for 18 credits.

  • Study for Accounting quiz
  • Study for International Finance midterm
  • Build discounted cash flow model for Financial Modeling
  • Create slides for Management group project
  • Read chapters 22 and 23  for Corporate Finance
  • Create study guide for Management

You look at the daunting list and feel overwhelmed at the thought of getting everything done.

Using the workplace popcorn strategy, you can break these items down into smaller chunks and work in different areas for a change of scenery that will keep your mind fresh and focused.

2. Estimate the time to complete each item

Once you have your to-do list built, try to estimate how much time you’ll need to spend on each item to get the item completed.

  • Study for Accounting quiz (1.5 hours)
  • Study for International Finance midterm (2 hours)
  • Build discounted cash flow model for Financial modeling (2 hours)
  • Create slides for Management group project (1 hour)
  • Read chapters 22 and 23  for Corporate Finance (1 hour)
  • Create study guide for Management (1.5 hours)

Total study time: 9 hours

3. Group Items

Now that you have the estimated time for each item, break out the items into groups, with each group taking a total amount of time of around 2 to 3 hours.

You’ll see that the to-do list in our example has been grouped into 3 groups of 2, with each group around 2 to 3 hours in time.

Another thing to note when forming your groups is to have the tasks within a group differ from each other.

Instead of scheduling one group with tasks all related to one thing, have the tasks within the group be different. Think of this as the popcorn within the popcorn.

Spending a 3-hour block working on strictly Accounting work can bore you and burn you out as well.

Instead, you could spend 1.5 hours on Accounting and 1.5 hours on Financial Modeling. Working on a fresh topic allows you to lock in on that topic for the period of time you set.

4. Choose your work locations

Now for the popcorn!

Choose 3 (or more if you want) locations that you want to work in. The workplaces should have WiFi and be in a location where you are comfortable and capable of working for a few hours.

You’ll want to choose spots where you have space to work and minimal distractions from noise and crowds.

Here are some places I have personally chosen as popcorn spots:

  • My apartment
  • Coffee shops
  • Public or campus libraries
  • Office at work
  • Lounges at the gym
  • Different buildings on the same college campus
  • Someone else’s apartment or home

5. Get out there and work

With your spots chosen and a plan of what you’ll work on at each spot, you can begin tackling the work day.

Work at your first location for a few hours and get your work done.

Once time has finished up at one spot, take at least a 30-minute break in between work locations.

This will refresh and charge your mind for the next location and batch of to-do items.

You can use this time to be productive in other areas of your life too.

Examples include:

  • Going to the gym
  • Buying groceries
  • Getting a car wash
  • Cleaning your home
  • Grabbing lunch with a friend

After your break, head to location 2, bust out the work, take a break, and repeat for location 3 until all your tasks are completed.


Makes long to-do lists more manageable

This strategy can skyrocket your productivity and help take daunting to-do lists and break them into smaller and more manageable chunks.

In our example, you see that our total time spent working for the day was 9 hours.

Imagine waking up in the morning and thinking you are going to sit in one spot and work for 9 hours straight.

I’d bet you would probably burn out about half way and be tapped the remainder of the day.

Workplace popcorn allows you to go all-in for a few hours at a time and break down chunks of time into periods of focused productivity and execution.

The change of scenery allows you to refresh and reset 

When you change up your scenery, it feels like you are starting the day fresh and that your tank of willpower and motivation received a little boost.

When you work in one location for too long, it can become dull and drain your energy from boredom.

The act of getting up and changing locations will get your body moving, which is one way of waking up and refreshing.

Then when you get into the next work location,  you’ll feel a boost from the new environment as well.

Breaks are scheduled into the strategy

One of the best benefits of the workplace popcorn strategy is that breaks are included in the structure.

You work a few hours, take a break, and repeat that process until your tasks are completed.

Breaks are important in productivity even if you get the feeling that the time on your break could be used to get further ahead in your work.

Bypassing breaks in hopes of getting things done quicker will lead to you burning out.

To still feel productive, use your breaks to be productive in other areas such as going to the gym or running errands.

The point of the break is to simply get your mind off of your tasks and projects.

Keeps you away from the distractions at your home

Don’t get me wrong. Working at home can be productive on its own and working from home is comfortable, but too comfortable.

When you work from home, distractions are too close to fall into into sometimes.

  • Your fridge is just a few steps away
  • The TV and the couch draw you in
  • Room mates or your significant other bait you into doing things other than your work

When you are away from your home and in a different location, you know you are there for one reason and one reason only: to get things done.


Sometimes our plates fill up and we find ourselves with more work to complete than we think we have the time or energy for.

Have the workplace popcorn strategy in your productivity tool bag to help get work done as efficiently as possible.

Using it will help you get more done, in less time, with less chance of burning out.

About Post Author

Brandon Hill

I'm Brandon Hill with Bizness Professionals. We serve content to help young professionals develop personally, professionally, and financially. Well-rounded improvement is a theme we live by. As such, this website will cover a variety of topics aimed to help you have a successful life and career.

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