Do you identify with this scenario?
You’ve put in your full workday and you take stock of what you hoped to accomplish and see how little you were able to strike off your to-do list. Tired and frustrated, you decide to try to cram in a few things before calling it quits. You send off a couple of emails, and then consider finishing that draft report so you can review it with fresh eyes in the morning —oh and there were those meetings you wanted to set up... Or maybe the workplace is quieter as your colleagues leave and you think “perfect time to settle down and write that blog post I promised for February” but you stare at your screen, inspiration having left the building along with your co-workers, it seems.
Many of us try to push through that end–of-day period, hoping to get more done but it turns out that may be a mistake. This is partly due to the fact that many of us spend a substantial part of our days receiving and managing information and not using this information for our jobs. This deluge of information is mentally taxing; we can suffer from a sort of ‘cerebral congestion’ —our brains simply become full. Studies show that when you push your brain, it pushes back.
You can’t drive yourself past the point of fatigue and force productivity or creativity —it’s counterproductive. Instead, give your brain a rest. Think this is news? Not really. Almost a hundred years ago, Henry Ford changed his factory work-week from 6 days to 5 when he discovered productivity diminished after an eight-hour day, five-day week schedule. So take a page out of his book and reduce your work time to increase productivity. Here’s how:
Balance your day
Take a look at your workday and try to reduce the time you spend receiving and managing data and increase the portion you have for more creative activities. Breaking down the spans of time you spend managing data can help you find ways to add more productive activities into your day.
Take more frequent vacations
Don’t leave time unused and don’t go too long without a vacation. More recent studies show that people aren’t getting the breaks they need and aren’t taking all the vacation time they’re entitled to. Consider that Canadians don’t get a huge number of vacation days on average, why wouldn’t you use them?
Consider a nap
I’ll confess this will be a challenge for most of us, so consider something like a brief meditation break. I use the Google Assistant’s help and say “Hey Google, Let’s practice mindfulness” and she guides me through a 2 minute routine that helps me reset. Meditate a bit longer if you can —research has shown that as little as 5-10 minutes can help your brain and make a positive impact on sleep, concentration, creativity and health.
So if you want to accomplish more, consider doing a bit less. Science tells us the benefits include increased creativity and energy. Who am I to argue with science? I just returned from a week off where my daily tasks involved very little other than ensuring I applied sufficient sunscreen. I’m happy to say that my week off has made a difference. After all, I managed to get that blog written now, didn’t I?