Every noon as the clock hands arrive at twelve / I want to tie the two arms together / And walk out of the bank carrying time in bags. – Robert Bly, poet (b. 23 Dec 1926)
Do you ever feel that you would like to steal some extra time so that you could tick off all those things on your ever-growing to-do list? If so, you will know where Robert Bly is coming from.
There is so much to do in this ‘infinite world’, always more … emails, meetings, things to read, people to meet, things to follow up… more of everything. Technology allows us to do these things anywhere, at any time. In some places I’ve worked this is even expected, and being busy all the time is a status symbol.
But do such levels of busyness really boost our productivity; and are they good for our overall wellbeing? Plenty of research indicates negative results on both counts.
So, what can we do about this? Let me share three productivity secrets which will help:
- Prioritise: ask yourself whether you really need to be doing all this stuff. Are you focusing on what is most important to your goals or do you get distracted by minor or irrelevant issues? Beware the temptation to tackle only what is in your comfort zone – a sure-fire way of not moving forward. I’ve been using Covey’s time management matrix*for the past couple of years – It’s a tool for separating the importance stuff from the unimportant – and it helps me stay focused
- Rhythm: identify and acknowledge your energy peaks and troughs. I know I am a morning person and so I start early and get the important, taxing things done first. I allow myself some slack down-time later in the day, knowing that I’ve earned it. Be aware of your alert periods and use them to tackle the big stuff.
- Rest: down-time is productive in its own way. It allows space for reflection, renewal and recovery. Physical, goal oriented work-outs don’t count here: rather timeout with a gentle (non-work) read or movie. Maybe you’ve come across the old saying sometimes I just sit and think. Other times I just sit. Take some time to accomplish nothing at all. If you’re not convinced, a great new book by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less will persuade you of the value of including ‘nothing time’ in your schedule
These three secrets work together: because I use Covey’s matrix I know very clearly which tasks are important; I use my energy peaks to achieve these tasks and dedicate my energy lows to time for rest, reflection, renewal and recovery.
Prioritising, working to your natural rhythm and ensuring you get rest leads to shorter, more productive working days – and a happier you. What’s not to like?
*The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Well worth a re-read and a ‘must’ for all libraries – personal and business. It includes the time matrix mentioned above.
And finally, a TED talk to check out during your rest time. I think it’s rather lovely –http://www.ted.com/talks/rives_a_museum_of_4_o_clock_in_the_morning
Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.