Renew Yourself, Strategically
Stop, take a moment, maybe glance out of the window or roll the crooks out of your neck, and think about your workday. More than half of us are probably guilty of burning the midnight oil, juggling overwhelming client demands, and darting from task to task with hardly any time to breathe (or wash those dirty dishes in the sink). We're busy and overloaded. Time is precious and finite.
According to a New York Times article by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, there's a new set of multidisciplinary research showing that the best way to get more done may be to spend time doing less. It's called strategic renewal (we love that word), and is accomplished by doing all the things we enjoy - daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, and frequent vacations. By taking more time to restore our energy, it will in turn boost productivity, job performance, and health. It's counter-intuitive, I know. But when energy is managed skillfully, it's possible to get more work done in a sustainable way.
The more we want to accomplish, the more hours we invest in doing so. However, energy - which may be more influential on productivity than time - is a renewable resource. As humans, we're not built to continuously expend energy, but rather alternate between spending and recovering.
Throughout the workday, we move from a state of alertness into physiological fatigue about every 90 minutes. When our body is telling us to go on break, we instead inject ourselves with caffeine and sugar. Working in 90-minute energy cycles turns out to be a key to maximizing productivity.
Professor K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University has studied elite performers, ranging from athletes to musicians, and found that the most successful performers typically practice in uninterrupted 90-minute sessions. They rarely work for more than four and half hours per day, showing that in order to maximize gains individuals must avoid exhaustion. Time does not necessarily equate to productivity.
Many companies such as Google, Coca-Cola, and Green Mountain Coffee have incorporated strategic renewal practices into their corporate culture. Employees are encouraged to take renewal breaks throughout the day, which include having a dedicated space to quiet the mind and relax the body.
Below are seven tips on how to maximize productivity:
- Work in 90-minute uninterrupted sessions
- Organize your workflow so that you can afford to take it easy for a few minutes
- Leave the office for lunch
- Meditate, relax, or go clear your head somewhere
- Take a walk or go the gym
- Treat yourself to a short nap (if possible)
- If all else fails, take big yoga breaths and grab a healthy snack