Recently I wrote an article on laziness and how it will assist you with becoming more successful and happy. Readers loved it and the response was overwhelming because someone had finally given permission to take a few hours out of the week to relax and regroup! No more guilt for taking time out to let your mind relax, have some fun, and improve your relationships.
A different camp of readers didn’t like the advice so much. I heard every reason under the sun why busyness was necessary. (Surprisingly, not one person blamed themselves for their hectic and frantic schedules). To assist this second group in getting control over their schedules let me offer three insights from some of the most prolific productivity and high-performing researchers and writers on how to truly become a high-performing individual.
First, learn to say no in 2016. The experts agree that saying no does not come naturally. We don’t want to disappoint bosses, counterparts or friends and we want to be seen as a team player or the go-to person. The problem arises when you take on too many assignments you stretch yourself too thin and decrease your chance of completing all of your work and projects in a successful and timely manner. Karen Dilon, the co-author of “How Will You Measure Your Life?” suggested always taking some time before you say yes or no to a request. “Think about what is on your plate, and what priorities can be shuffled.” Your ego and pride may want to blurt out a “YES!” but you need to be strategic in evaluating if you can really take on the project or task.
Second, learn how you best work. Is it first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon? When are you at the top of your game? When you discover the time frame of when you are your best, that is the time to work on important projects and to put aside less meaningful tasks and assignments for later. Start to work in cycles by working for a focused 90 minutes (yes, turn off the cell phone, the emails and the company instant messaging) before taking a break. Researchers have found that when you focus on work and disconnect from distractions you can double your output. This includes taking a break every 90 minutes.
Third, when working on an important project or task if you begin slowing down and can’t seem to make any progress intentionally put the task down and leave it alone for a good two hours. (This means you can’t procrastinate!). Let your mind work on it while you focus on a different task or project. This is called the Zeigarnick Effect, which is when you leave a project unfinished you are bound to think about it more frequently, than after it is done. By stepping back you can gain different insight and solutions when you are doing something else. Top performers view time off not as stalled productivity but as an investment in their future performance.
A perfect example of this was a kitchen set I had to put together for one of my daughters for Christmas (despite, the fact that every year I try to remind everyone not to buy anything that requires over 5 minutes of assembly!) After working on the kitchenette for 2 hours I couldn’t figure out how some of the final pieces fit. (Could it have been that the instructions seemed to be translated from a different language and made no sense?) I stepped away, put in a movie, and came back to the project an hour later and was able to figure out the problem in minutes.
Choose one of the three productivity ideas to focus on for the next few months and watch how your productivity increases. The secret is to try it for at least two weeks. If you find yourself telling everyone how busy you are, this may be the solution you have been looking for.