Getting more done within the same time – fact or fiction?
Getting more done in less time is a desire as old as the hills! But is it possible to actually “find” time, or is it a pipedream?
The answer depends on one’s perspective. Productivity hacks are always popular, but they don’t necessarily address the underlying time-based decisions we make.
Michael Maven, the marketing strategist, talks about this concept in his book “Get Better Customers Now”. He refers to a concept of the Destructive Attention Without Awareness Loop (DAWAL). This phenomenon occurs when distracting elements, such as mobile devices that generate alerts, start splitting our attention.
How does this translate and apply in day-to-day activities, personally and professionally? And is it even possible to get more done when I am already drowning in work?
Setting the Finding Time Typical Workplace Scene
Jane is in the mergers & acquisitions (M&A) team. She consults with target teams to assess the strategic value and expected return on investment analysis. She has a full plate with five active targets in various states of analysis. Jane is a rising superstar and a positive role model for other aspiring female leaders. Management wants to showcase Jane’s success story and do so by elevating her public-face time. She will take on speaking engagements, set up a mentorship program, and lead a team of ten M&A team members. Jane’s excitement cannot be contained! Reality sets in and she knows that her workload is about to go through the roof…she wonders if she can manage it all?
Will multitasking solve the getting more done in less time problem?
Many individuals default to pushing through using brute force, fondly known as powering through the challenge! Why? We rationalize that when we work for longer periods of time, then we get more work done. Of course, there is some merit to the longer work, more work equation, however, this approach is far from sustainable. Our energy levels will naturally decline over time, which means our output also declines over time. The result of this pattern left unchanged: stress-related absences and illness.
If we change the way we look at work effort and assess it relative to work done within x minutes (or hours) – it will prompt us to consider how to maximize work done per x period (say one hour). This approach will break our pattern of multitasking because in multitasking we lengthen the work/time equation. This explains why focused attention is more productive.
Leveraging our natural style to finding time to get more done
As humans, we have naturally built-in work and rest needs (or cycles). A great example is the concept of physical exercise. To build cardiovascular strength, we need to engage in sufficient aerobic exercise to push our muscles (including our heart) to build up and become stronger. In doing so we build muscle tone, strength, and release endorphins (feel-good hormones). This cycle builds long-term strength, resilient recovery, and improves energy. How does this example relate to the way we work when under pressure to deliver more in the same amount of time?
Like the insight we get from cardiovascular exercise, we apply the lessons to our working style. When we work in a continuous and uninterrupted way, we will burn out, physically and mentally. On the other hand, if we don’t work enough then our performance is negatively affected (linked to the adage “use it or lose it”). A conundrum to some!
The way to address this is to combine periods of focused work and focused breaks. The idea behind it is to develop the ability to change gears between work and “play” allowing us to recharge. The “play” or “relax” mode will allow us to unplug from a work activity entirely. The motion of unwinding effectively ramps us up again, a little like refueling a traditional car or recharging an electric car. This process cycle is made easier and sustainable through our clarity of purpose and values in day-to-day decision-making.
What does Jane learn?
In understanding the idea of focus, Jane has several choices:
- Delegation – she can trust her team to deliver and perform well once she outlines clearly her expectations
- Focus – she can focus her time and energy into the activities that generate the best value: her team members
- Prioritize – she can order her own activities based on importance and time-sensitivity
- Take regular breaks – she can build regular breaks into each hour to keep her energies high and her focus sharp
In no time at all, by taking these mental breaks throughout the day we will see benefits in clarity of thoughts and energy levels. Gone will be the days of wasting energy simply because we’re no longer trying to do many things simultaneously. The result: we get more work done in less time.
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Cartoon credit: Alejandro Moreno-Ramos