Reversing the “always on work” culture isn’t just good for your health, but boots your productivity.
Working in PR, I’ve come to realise the news never rests, there is always a new news agenda and trends are always changing. Keeping on top of trends - through news media and social media, requires content overload, and working with clients all over the world. The email ‘ping’ is a normal occurrence at mealtimes or when I’m in bed. The culture of PR is one that is fast moving, and always switched on and always reactive.
However, I’ve been reading a book recently called Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt in which the author describes that your work/life balance is key to productivity. We only have 168 hours in a week, there is a cap on the amount of time we have, but our energy can fluctuate throughout those 168 hours. Personal energy is a renewable resource and can be replenished by seven basic practices.
On average we get about seven hours of sleep overnight, and sometimes we can buy into the myth that sleeping is a hinderance in our productivity. Nightly rejuvenation is a key foundation for a productive day. Sufficient and uninterrupted sleep keeps us mentally alert. And improves our ability, to learn, to remember, and to grow. It also, reduces stress, refreshes our emotions and recharges our bodies.
The food we eat makes an immediate and long-lasting impact on our energy levels. Now, I am no dietician but I know that when I haven’t eaten my energy, my patience and my brain power all diminish, oh and I get super ‘hangry’! I won’t try and speak into diets, but I can speak about one habit I can’t seem to break…. eating at my desk. I don’t know why I can’t shake this, but I am trying to ensure I leave my desk for lunch every day. I know that a change of environment can fuel creativity and innovation, so I’m trying to go for a walk, or head home for lunch or even just move to another part of the office for lunch.
My Everest. You might be thinking how and where do I fit this in to my schedule, but even taking time on your lunch to walk around or head to the gym can make the world of good to your afternoon ‘lull’. Exercise even in its smallest form, gives mental and physical rejuvenation and even gives us desire to engage in competitive situations making us more driven to succeed at work.
We can’t talk about managing energy levels without talking about the effect other people have on our energy. No matter how much you exercise, how good your diet or how much sleep you get, people do affect our energy levels. But we all need personal connection with others, other people charge us up and for maximum rejuvenation we must be intentional about spending time with others.
You know that saying ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, well it also makes Jack uncreative, tired, unfocused and ineffective. We must value time for play in our lives, spending time on the things we enjoy doing, our hobbies, our thrills, the ways we relax. Because play has no desired end product as such, it flows along on its own. And that’s it’s secret - when you’re not working on something, you’re free to be inefficient and just enjoy the ride.
Another way to rejuvenate your energy is to reflect. This can be hard for extroverts like me, it could be meditation, reading, journaling, prayer, or introspection. A lot of the earlier point are a lot to do with your body, but this one completely rejuvenates your mind. We need to make time to reflect on our habits, our practices and figure out where we’re going and what our decision and actions are leading to.
Lastly, how do you win with all of these practices? It is hard to make time for all of them when you’re constantly worrying about the fact you’re not working or doing something ‘productive’. Yet drifting into ‘weekend working’ or skipping sleep to catch up, ultimately is working against your productivity. To make sure we unplug, we can put boundaries or rules in place to ensure we stay disconnected from work in the evening or over weeks or holidays. For example, I try not to have my phone nearby in the evenings, turn off emails while on holiday, and try to spend more time connecting and doing my ‘play’ activities.
I haven’t got all this together yet, but I’m excited to keep motivating myself through these practices and hopefully get to a place where I can feel free to focus and give energy to all areas of my life and see a boost in productivity.
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