Did you know that between 25 and 50 percent of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work? According to Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything, the reason for this is not just the number of hours we work, but also because we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.
These days, technology has allowed work to follow us everywhere. Let’s face it, we all know someone who answers emails while attending conference calls or their kids’ soccer games. Schwartz argues that we have lost our boundaries and all this multi-tasking is costing us productivity.
More specifically, he states that when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 percent. Taking this a step further, if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.
Instead of multi-tasking to get more done in a shorter period of time, Schwartz suggests the following to improve your productivity:
- Maintain meeting discipline. Hold 45 minutes meetings (vs. 1 hour) to help people stay focused, and start and end on time. Of course, all electronic devices should be turned off.
- Stop expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day. It forces you into reactive mode and it distracts you. You really don’t need to check your email at the dinner table or right before you go to bed at night.
- Encourage renewal. Create at least one time during the day when you stop working and take a break. Maybe take a walk at lunch or even take a nap.
- Do the most important thing first in the morning. This should be for 60 to 90 minutes without interruption, with a clear start and stop time. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to renew.
- Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you don’t, you’ll constantly fall victim to the reactive “urgent crisis mode”. Also, do this outside the office where you can think clearly and in a relaxed state.
- Take real and regular vacations. By real, we mean when you are unplugged, be truly unplugged. Also, take regular vacations, even if they are just extended weekends. Research suggests that you’ll healthier if you take all of your vacation time, and more productive overall.
The bottom line is when you’re engaged at work, fully engage and when you are renewing, truly renew. As Schwartz said, “Stop living your life in the gray zone.”
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