10 ways to do less & ACHIEVE MORE

Are you con­stantly jug­gling tasks, yet feel like noth­ing ever gets done? It pays to know how (and when) to be pro­duc­tive, says Nikki Walsh

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - BODY & SOUL -

1 Rest The new buzz-phrase in Amer­i­can com­pa­nies? Strate­gic re­newal. Thanks to new re­search, the pow­ers that be in the work­place are real­is­ing that the ‘ work bet­ter faster’ men­tal­ity is not work­able in the long run. A re­cent Har­vard study es­ti­mated that sleep de­pri­va­tion — one of the main symp­toms of over­work — costs Amer­i­can com­pa­nies $63.2 bil­lion a year in lost pro­duc­tiv­ity, while air traf­fic con­trollers who were given 40 min­utes to have a nap, and slept an aver­age of 19 min­utes, per­formed bet­ter than those who did not take a break to recharge. Ernst & Young did their own in­ter­nal re­search and dis­cov­ered that for ev­ery 10 hours of hol­i­day time taken, their em­ploy­ees’ per­for­mance im­proved by eight per cent. Not sur­pris­ingly, th­ese days more and more com­pa­nies are en­cour­ag­ing their work­ers to grab short af­ter­noon naps, sleep more at night, and take longer, more fre­quent hol­i­days. The re­sult? A pro­duc­tive and healthy, rested work­force.

So how can we Ir­ish fol­low suit? Walk to work, take your lunch break, do lunchtime work­outs, fin­ish on time, and head for the hills at week­ends. Step­ping back from work not only al­lows you to see from a dis­tance what nasty habits you might have got into, en­abling you to make changes when you re­turn, but tak­ing a break from a pro­ject can help you view it from an­other an­gle.

2 Work in 90-minute stints Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists, we aren’t de­signed to ex­pand en­ergy con­tin­u­ously. It seems that we per­form best in 90-minute pe­ri­ods of ex­er­tion or con­cen­tra­tion. If we pay at­ten­tion, our bod­ies tell us as much — but we tend to over­ride th­ese signals with caf­feine, sugar and adren­a­line. Try work­ing for an hour and a half, then take what is be­com­ing known State­side as a ‘re­newal break’. 4 Set goals How many times have you com­pleted a pro­ject only to re­alise later that you never ful­filled the main ob­jec­tive of the task? Ef­fec­tive peo­ple keep the end goal in sight. Not only does it fo­cus them but it also helps them to stream­line their work­ing pro­cesses, en­sur­ing they don’t get too bogged down in de­tail. Stud­ies have shown that spe­cific and am­bi­tious goals lead to a higher level of per­for­mance, in­creas­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity by as much as 50 per cent.

Be­fore you be­gin any new pro­ject, ask your­self what are you be­ing asked to achieve and how are you go­ing to get there. Think about what will take the least amount of ef­fort and achieve max­i­mum re­sults. Is it pos­si­ble some of the re­search for the pro­ject ex­ists al­ready? Or that some­thing sim­i­lar was con­ducted be­fore? Don’t du­pli­cate part of the process if you don’t have to. Think SMART: smart goals are Spe­cific, Mea­sur­able, At­tain­able, Rel­e­vant and Time-bound. Break your goal down into parts so you can re­ward your­self along the way.

5 Get men­tored In her fas­ci­nat­ing book The Savvy Woman’s Guide To Fi­nan­cial Freedom, pub­lished by Pen­guin, Cork-born en­tre­pre­neur and all-round dy­namo Su­san Hayes ad­vises women to meet a good friend or part­ner on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to dis­cuss their goals. Over the years her own ac­count­abil­ity ses­sions with her boyfriend, held over din­ner on a Fri­day night, have given her the chance to clar­ify her vi­sion in a way she wouldn’t get the chance to do un­less she thrashed it out with some­one else. It also helped her to avoid pro­cras­ti­na­tion — she has to re­port back on her progress, look at the big­ger pic­ture and cel­e­brate her achieve­ments. Don’t for­get to men­tor back. It’s of­ten by help­ing oth­ers that we see our own pit­falls more clearly.

6 Fo­cus Pro­duc­tiv­ity is all about fo­cus. Dis­trac­tions cost US busi­nesses up to $588 bil­lion per year, and this high cost is likely to be re­peated in or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world. Find out what your chief dis­trac­tions are and elim­i­nate them. Do you spend much of your work­ing day read­ing and writ­ing emails? Are you on Face­book at peak pro­duc­tiv­ity hours? Do you find your­self chat­ting aim­lessly by the wa­ter cooler in the af­ter­noons?

Make a list of all your time-wast­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and move them into leisure time. Then block them out for hours at a time so you can fo­cus on a task. Think about when you are at your sharpest and make ‘fo­cus time’ then, putting off more mun­dane tasks such as ad­min or check­ing email for those

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