Face it, you work much harder than you need you. Chances are you’ve had this conversation with yourself. The average workweek is over 60 hours and it is getting longer, not shorter. Remember back in the 80s when it was predicted that the average workweek would be less than 30 hours in the next 20 years? As if. Did you know there are some professions, especially in the tech sector, employees are expected to put in 100+ hour weeks? Even interns.
This marathon approach to working creates a lot of stress and limit the quality of life. It also hinders performance, productivity, and creativity.
Working a lot harder, despite what the story in your head tells you, is not the only way to achieve your goals and dreams. Here’s how to succeed in business without working too hard…
One reason for the work overload is people are trying to work much faster than they should. When you are in a hurry, you don’t pay attention to detail and studies by Quality College in Atlanta show that you make 25% more mistakes when you are rushed.
Rushing ruins quality, communication and innovation.
Ask yourself if something needs to be done. Many people will try and do things faster and cheaper that shouldn’t be done at all.
The sports cliche that is overused is to give 110%. But this often causes people to try too hard, which can create tension and impedes performance. Many successful coaches tell players to give 90%. The advice here? Just forget the percentages and instead look at what you want to accomplish, instead of focusing on working hard.
Example: If you are managing a sales team and you have one group’s focus on making as many calls as they can, versus another group who is told to make fewer calls than normal. Without fail, results from the group that was told to “make fewer phone calls” produced 20% more than the other group.
Quality and communication increased when they were not rushed or focused on numbers.
Take Thinking Time
Business owners and executives have grown accustomed to “always being available” to their customers, staff, and or bosses. Some won’t play a round of golf or go on vacation without their work cell phone.
Just as you need a day to rest when working out at the gym to allow for your muscles to recover, you need time for your mental muscles to recover. If you don’t, you risk brain fatigue, burn out, and an increase in mistakes.
For peak performance, you should listen to your body. Most executives and business owners have flexibility in their schedules. Most of the time, high-level people push their bodies and their minds too far. They feel that 80 hours isn’t enough, so they push for 90. The problem is, those extra ten hours are highly unproductive.
The process is rather simple. It focuses on vital tasks and problem-solving. The hardest problems are rarely solved sitting behind a desk. The ideas come to you when your conscious mind is in a relaxed state, but your subconscious continues to work through the problem.
If you find yourself exhausted, find a quiet place for a quick power nap. Feeling restless? That’s your body telling you it needs to move. Go on a walk. Get outside. Feed your body oxygen and a change of scenery. If you’re hungry, eat. By taking care of your body and your mind, your body and your mind will take care of you.
After about two weeks of this process, you will see huge strides in your productivity, while the amount of time you are working will be dramatically lower.
Example: A high-level business owner went paddleboarding every afternoon for an hour. Without fail, when she returned to the office, she had the solution or a partial solution to a major issue. This happened because her mind was relaxed and she was better able to process the data she had fed her brain.
Her advice is on-point. She learns everything she can about the problem at hand. Then she stops thinking about it, leaves the office, and drives three blocks to the nearby lake, and takes to the water on her paddleboard. Because she is focused on something else, the warmth of the sun on her body, the sounds of the water, the birds, and stroke of her paddle, when the problem comes back to her mind, she can see it in a whole new, more creative way, and possible solutions begin to pour in.
People who don’t have a lot of flexibility in their schedules get permission for an extra fifteen-minute break, and listen or music or exercise. There is a big difference between goofing off and having some downtime. Know the difference and respect the process.
Avoid the E-mail Epidemic
E-mail is a powerful communication tool, but it is vastly overused. Just look at your inbox and the number of unread e-mails that you have. Mine is close to 3,000 for my main work account, and my Gmail account is over 100,000 unread messages.
That’s bordering on insane!
Here are some tips:
- Don’t use e-mail if picking up the phone or talking to someone in person would be better. The emphasis here on “would be better” as most issues do NOT need a phone call as a quick e-mail is fine. If the person you are e-mailing sits next to you, just ask, but just don’t be “a Doug” from The Office.
- Keep it vital. Limit your e-mails to one screen and stick to critical points. Long e-mail waste everyone’s time, including yours who wrote it. If you can, put the message in the Subject Line. Keep it short and to the point. And a reminder, don’t send jokes to co-workers, leave that to after hours with your friends.
- Don’t reply to the e-mail unless you absolutely must. There are some people who send more e-mails thanking the people who sent them an e-mail than they do staying of anything of substance. Don’t be that person.
- Have a clear agenda BEFORE the meeting, preferable as a Google Doc, and update the Doc during the meeting. Stick to the agenda and do not deviate.
- People who are highly productive hate meetings. Remember this.
- If your meeting is longer than an hour, then you are doing it wrong.
- What is the “cost” of the meeting? Having the entire staff in for a weekly hour-long meeting could be costing the company a ton in lost productivity. One large firm figured out their weekly hour-long teleconferences was costing the company $1.5 million in lost time per month. You can bet they made changes to their meeting schedules.
- Remove the chairs from the meeting room. If people can’t sit, they will get to the point and leave. You are having the meeting to get things done, so have a setting that focused on getting things done by not allowing people to be comfortable or complacent.
- Never tolerate lateness. Lock the conference room door when the meeting begins if you have to. Charge those who are late and give the money to charity. People are late because it is a bad habit. Help them break it.
Work Smart, Not Hard
This is one of the worst statements as the lazy and unproductive use it as a crutch. Here is what you should do instead:
- Eliminate Performance Reviews. Your people should know on a daily basis how they are doing, not waiting for three months, six months, or even a year. So stop meeting with your people so infrequently and pat them on the back when they do something great, or offer a piece of advice in the privacy of your office or theirs when they screw up. Telling someone what they did wrong months after the fact doesn’t help them or the company.
- Keep memos, reports, proposals, etc. to a single page. Don’t waste people’s time. If you can’t fit it on one page, you write too much. Simplify it. Everyone will appreciate it and will even read it. And for those who can’t even get through a single page, have a TL;DR (Too Long Didn’t Read) summary.
- If you want fresh, new ideas or to find out what’s not working in your organization, ask. Talk to the people who have been with the company for the least amount of time. The reason is they aren’t “stained” yet as long-term employees might be.
- Reboot your business. Imagine it is your first day on the job. What would you do differently? Question everything.
- Focus on Success. Fixating on mistakes will shatter the confidence of even your best people. Instead, focus on past successes. This process is a great motivator and confidence builder.
- Keep a Victory Log. Write down a quick line or a few words to evoke a past triumph. This can help you get through a rut in the future and give you insights to your strengths and help you better appreciate your potential.