How to work less and accomplish more
Monday, March 13, 2017
Perhaps with just one more day in the week, we could get all our work done. Or maybe even with just a few uninterrupted hours, we could achieve an empty inbox or completed to-do list. Then, we could take a minute to indulge in more creative pursuits. Yes, if we were just given the chance to work a little more, we could get it all done and then do something fun.
What if, instead of trying to find time to work more, we could work less and accomplish more?
Breaks = productivity
Scientists, minimalists, yogis and creative geniuses of all kinds have proven that creating space in our lives to afford our brain the opportunity for restorative rest provides myriad benefits. Yet somehow tasks, distractions and emergencies all chip away at our best efforts to carve out space in the calendar.
Joshua Becker, a practicing minimalist and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of "The More of Less," suggests 12 strategies to create more space. Among them are three we could all start doing immediately:
- Get up 15 minutes earlier. We can start the day at our own pace with a little more control.
- Turn off the TV. Just cutting out one show can give us back 18 minutes of time to restore.
- Take a tea or coffee break. Even stuck in a cubicle, we can find a way to hit the break room for a cuppa.
Incense not required
Once we have carved out a few extra minutes in our day, what good does that do? How much good can an extra stretch in the morning or some chamomile in the afternoon provide — especially when we know the morning craziness is about to begin and work is piling up on our desks? Plus, does it really make sense to cut out TV when that is how we wind down and relax?
The point of carving out extra time is not to stare at the wall or deny ourselves a few minutes of sleep or TV time; it is to create space to allow the mind to rest. According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of "Rest: Why you get more work done when you work less," rest is a skill we can practice and do deliberately. Allowing the mind the chance to wander creates more opportunity for creativity and increases productivity.
In his discussion with Ferris Jabr, a contributing writer for Scientific American, Pang also explained that many of the people he studied exercised as intensely as they worked and that physical activity provided space for the mind to process problems subconsciously as well as help us re-energize. He describes rest not as a passive thing but as an active, restorative process.
Next steps: Grab your sneakers
Both Pang and Becker mention getting outside to take a walk to create a restorative break. However, scheduling a walk on our calendars will likely just get chipped away at or pushed aside by something else.
Instead, to increase the likelihood you will do it, make the walk the byproduct of a project. For example, schedule time to follow up on a problem or task on the to-do list. Ask yourself: What can I do to solve this problem or accomplish this task? Then, give yourself permission to go on a walk while your brain figures out the answer.
Do this regularly to develop your resting skills, and soon enough you will be reaping the benefits of a restored mind.
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