As we head into the Christmas break, we hope you have some time for refection over the festive season. If you are looking for ideas on how to approach your work life balance in 2019, here are some ways to create some new habits.
- Do you ever feel like you can’t get everything done in your day?
- Do you feel like some parts of your life aren’t the same amount of attention as other parts of your life?
- Do you feel constantly tired and constrained by the busy schedule you have, often hoping that one day it will get better?
The short answer is nothing will change until you make some changes!
So what is the first step to making change? The first important step is that you recognise that something actually needs to change.
I recently found an interesting article on news.com.au that provided me with a few facts to reinforce the need to change.
- Between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burnt out at work
And it’s not just the number of hours that people are working, but also the fact that we are spending too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.
- We have lost our ‘stopping points’, ‘finish lines’ or boundaries
Technology is one of the main reasons why we aren’t able to recognise these boundaries. Wherever we go, our work follows us, whether that is on our iPhones or our iPads, and we just can’t resist the urge to ‘keep in touch’.
Tell the truth:
- Do you respond to emails during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)?
- Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you’re taking notes while you surf the net or check emails?
- Do you eat lunch at your desk?
- Do you make calls while you’re driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn’t?
So what is the biggest cost of doing all of this (assuming you don’t crash!) – it is the cost to your productivity.
How, you may ask?
It is a consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one.
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 per cent.
But the even bigger problem is that if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available bank of ‘energy’ over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.
I know this from my own experience. I get two to three times as much work done when I focus without interruption for a designated period of time and then take a real break, away from my desk.
Have you ever found that?
So what is the solution?
The best way for an organization or business to fuel higher productivity and more innovative thinking is to strongly encourage specific periods of total focus, as well as shorter periods of time spent ‘recharging’ your batteries.
So how do we do this?
As a leader, you could consider the following three ideas:
1. Maintain meeting discipline.
Schedule meetings for 45 minutes, rather than an hour or longer, so staff can stay focused. Take time after a meeting to reflect on what’s been discussed, and recover before the next obligation.
Start all meetings at a precise time, end at a precise time, and insist that all digital devices be turned off throughout the meeting.
2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day.
This way of thinking forces your staff into reactive mode, which breaks their attention, and makes it difficult for them to maintain attention on their priorities.
Let your staff turn off their email at certain times. If it’s urgent, you can call them — but that shouldn’t happen very often.
3. Encourage people to recharge.
Create at least one time during the day when you encourage your staff to stop working and take a break.
Offer short group walks, or create a ‘chill out’ room where people can relax.
It’s also up to people to set their own individual boundaries.
Consider these three behaviours for yourself:
1. Do the most important thing first in the morning
And it works best if you do this without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. If possible, work in a private space during this time.
Resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to reenergise.
2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically.
If you don’t do this you’ll constantly succumb to those tasks that are urgent.
Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking – maybe at the park or near some water.
3. Take real and regular holidays.
Taking ‘real holidays’ means that when you’re off, you’re truly disconnecting from work.
And, ‘regular’ means several times a year if possible, even if some are only two or three days added to a weekend. Research strongly suggests that you’ll be far healthier and productive if you take all your holidays.
A single principle lies at the heart of all these suggestions. When you’re engaged at work, fully engage for defined periods of time, and when you’re recharging, truly recharge.