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
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