Picture this: The distant chiming of the yogi’s bell. The smell of incense and the soothing breath of the ocean’s salty spray lightly dampening your forehead as you sip green tea. Ahhh, now that’s relaxation ....
“Ugh, how boring!” my daughter would protest. And perhaps she’s right. For her, the very thought of meditation seems simultaneously weird and downright futile as a relaxation technique. Maybe she’d rather find her energy at the mall or along the shops in downtown Chicago, New York, or Paris even. Still others might choose a good book, with its fanciful tale and well-woven twists and literary turns. I prefer the freedom that one only experiences diving out the open door of an airplane, a parachute on your back and terra firma two miles below.
You see, each one of us has our own way to best recharge our batteries and to restore our productive energy. And in a time of increasing competitiveness, the pressures to do more with less, to embrace the benefits of 24x7 technological connectedness (while not going insane doing so), and to multitask, multitask, multitask for ever greater production, and by the transitive property (if you recall your high school math), greater profits...well, it’s never been greater.
But what if working faster and harder leads not to greater production, but to lessened efficiencies? Would it still be worth the efforts you (and your employees and/or colleagues) are exerting?
Tony Schwartz, Chief Executive Officer at The Energy Project and renowned author, argues that the endless pursuit of doing more actually reduces the effectiveness of one’s efforts. In fact, it undermines the very values and goals that drive most organizations.
So, what’s the solution? After all, in this day and age, we’ve all got more work and most of us have less resources with which to do it all. We’ve just got to put in more hours just to get everything done. The irony, though, is that when we put in more hours, we often find just the opposite. We discover an inverse correlation between working harder and working more efficiently. As the hours add up, the efficiency of efforts begins a slow (and the faster) downward spiral.
The key, according to Schwartz and others is, instead, to actually build structured breaks into your work and your work day. Take your vacation days, instead of allowing yourself to lose them at the end of the year. Take frequent non-working lunches (by yourself or with colleagues). Ban the practice (for yourself or within your entire organization) of doing work in the evenings or on weekends.
Some of you will probably notice about now your eyeballs rolling, and you’ll find yourself whispering under your breath, “That just wouldn’t work here.” Well, you’re right. It won’t work, because you’ve already decided it won’t. In fact, stories abound of organizations that gained significant efficiencies by doing just what Schwartz espouses. Their computer systems broadcast a warning to anyone logging in after a certain time at night and on weekends. Their leaders softly chide violators of this policy, and over time, the companies have discovered the results, in actuality increase production. It’s an interesting realization, to be sure.
So, try it as an experiment, perhaps for just two weeks at first. Set in place some measurements to explore the impacts on ultimate productivity and morale in your workplace. Then give it a shot. Chances are, you’ll see a difference.