We have our productivity strategies all wrong, believes Australian occupational therapist Angela Lockwood.
Traditionally being productive has been viewed as working through a list of tasks and completing them.
But Angela, below, says the problem with that approach is that when we have a never-ending list of tasks vying for our attention it is hard to ever switch off, get anything done or feel a sense of accomplishment.
The author of new book Switch Off. How to find calm in a noisy world and The Power of Conscious Choice says maximising your productivity really comes down to only two things – energy and focus.
Having enough energy to get you through the week with reserves for the weekend, while having the clarity of mind to determine what is important and what isn’t.
“Our weekends hold the key to our productivity and when we use our weekends [or our days not at work] for what they were designed for we will find renewed energy and focus in all areas of our lives,” says Angela.
Here then are Angela’s three key actions to keep in mind on your next break.
Friday afternoon before you leave work, on the way home or over Friday night dinner, use this time for reflection. In our ‘right here, right now’ world we are quick to move on to the next thing not taking the time to reflect on what worked during our week and what didn’t. Individuals and organisations that allocate time for reflection make good decisions again and again. They identify what they did right and what they did wrong, and use the experience to shape how they approach similar situations in the future. This also works on an individual level. Look back on your week to see what worked well for you and what you need to do differently. This will help you to switch off over the weekend, learn and move on.
Sleep and rest are often viewed as luxuries in our fast-paced world. With so much to do and so little time, sleep and rest are seen as obstacles to getting things done. We all know the importance of sleep and taking a break when we are starting to feel overtired or ill. The problem is, rest is typically what we do when it is too late — we rest when we are already overtired and/or sick. To rest means to ‘cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength’. So use your weekends to do just that. Intense activity and energy expenditure (your work week), needs to be balanced by rest and repair (your weekend). Your weekend rest schedule could be a morning walk to the local café, a surf, an afternoon read of the newspaper, a visit to a friend or even a Sunday morning long-breakfast. Take opportunities to rest when you can, it is the single most effective way for you to switch off and gain the energy boost you need.
We can’t always be in a zoned-out, disconnected, chilled-out rest zone. We eventually have to go back to work! Rather than our return to work being a chore transition into the work week with renewed energy and focus and plug it in where it’s needed. How you do this is to use some time on your weekend to plan for the week ahead. Being organised is really the key to ensuring the week flows smoothly. By being organised we cease to be reactive and become proactive. Being proactive means we are in control rather than just responding as things pop up. When we are organised our day flows better, and if we do forget something it isn’t that big a deal. Use a portion of your weekend to plan your meals for the coming week, shop for groceries (or have them delivered), plan your tasks for the week, and set a household routine.
When you are organised you feel in control, so use your weekends wisely, adds Angela.
“When you find time for reflection, to rest and to get organised you will have the energy and focus to get through the week and have some in reserve for the unexpected!”