Productivity

“Run and then rest”: Four strategies for getting more done in less time

Lisa Stephenson /

work smarter

Who Am I Projects founder Lisa Stephenson. Source: Supplied.

We live in a world where being ‘busy’ is rewarded, and having a full diary is linked with high performance. Skipping lunch is a reflection of how in demand your time is, and late-night emails reflect your commitment.

How did this happen?

There is a general consensus in the corporate world this attitude is wrong, but there is little momentum for changing this ongoing challenge. Terms such as ‘work-life balance’ and ‘time poor’ are used regularly, without proper attention being paid to the consequences of always trying to get more done, and the fact longer working hours is often the result.

We seem consumed with the desire to be fast-paced in all that we do. Organisations have models for efficiency and effectiveness, and individuals have multiple strategies to manage what they squeeze into their day. It’s well documented most of us can only be truly focused for 90-minute sessions, and that to return to our optimum performance, we need to stop and rejuvenate for 30 minutes. So why do we ignore what our bodies and brains tell us? Rest and disconnecting from everything for short periods is what we need and, by doing so, we can be more effective and sometimes work less.

There are no short-cuts or life hacks when it comes to managing time. There are 24 hours in the day today, tomorrow and beyond. We can’t actually manage time. It’s what we consciously choose to do with our hours that’s important. So scrap the time management workshops and change how you think about where you’re investing your energy and focus during your day.

Here is the good news. The four strategies I share below could help you sleep better and have more time for things that matter to you. If you are one of those people who work really hard all day and feel like you don’t know where your time went, this might change everything. If only you had time to read this entire article! Hang on in here with me.

1. The secret lies in getting more done, in less time

Mostly I find my clients think when they are under pressure they need to work harder and longer. The opposite is true. Work in a focused manner, be strategic and deliberate in how you map your day. I told you there was good news!

2. For everything you say ‘yes’ to, you are saying ‘no’ to something else

In the coaching world, we talk about opportunity cost. Every commitment you make has a financial, emotional, social, physical and or time cost attached to it. For example, when you say yes to a meeting, it’s going to cost you 60 minutes of your time, which means you are saying no to getting home to dinner with your family or finishing that report.

Sometimes we just need to do what’s required, but whenever you can manage it, say yes to what will help you get more done according to what is a high priority for you. Are you consciously saying yes to the right tasks and invitations?

3. Run and then rest

Your body and brain need periods of time to disconnect. Go hard for a 90-minute session and then disconnect. Do not confuse this with multi-tasking. Don’t go from one task straight onto another or work hard on multiple things within the 90-minute block. When your brain is focused on a task and then has to switch to another, it has to slow down to process all the different requests you are making of it.

The following ‘rest’ period can be as simple as walking a lap of the office floor and making a tea.

You will find if, rather than resting, you go straight to emailing, you won’t have the opportunity to reset and rejuvenate. For years, athletes have shown us the importance of resting after high-performance activity. Plan out your day following this thinking and see what’s different.

4. Make yourself your most important project

Investing in you is the most important investment you will ever make. You will never have today again.

Successful people think strategically about how they are living, working and getting things done. They set deadlines and consult experts who will support their success. They identify blockers and review their progress.

Working more hours is unlikely to make you more successful or productive. Do an audit on what is and isn’t working for you now in terms of your daily productivity. Pay attention to what’s consuming most of your time and headspace. Seek out a mentor who can provide you with some wisdom on ‘getting there’ without compromising your wellbeing.  

I said ‘yes’ to writing this article and now my writing time is up. Here’s to you setting your pace and having a hugely productive week.

NOW READ: Become more productive by making these four changes to your environment

NOW READ: Naomi Simson: Are smartphones in the office a productivity gain or drain?

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Lisa Stephenson

Lisa Stephenson is the author of Read Me First and the founder of the global, Australian-based consulting firm Who Am I Projects. She has decades of experience as a global speaker, leadership consultant and success coach.

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