Posted by Daphne
Not only have I been seeing this NYT article (Relax! You’ll Be More Productive) circulating around Facebook lately, but a coworker also just emailed it to our whole group. It seems that many people are yearning for both increased productivity and relaxation – and this article by Tony Schwartz just may be the golden ticket to helping us achieve that magical balance!
It seems a bit counterintuitive at first. Schwartz states that they key to achieving greater productivity is not found through getting swept up in a whirlwind of working/going/doing longer and faster, rather, it is found in quite the opposite state: that of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Schwartz’s thesis comes down to this point: the amount of time in a day to complete our tasks is finite. No matter how productive we are, we cannot come up with more time. What we can control, however, is the amount of energy we have to spend on accomplishing these tasks. Energy may not be infinite, but it is renewable, and it is in our power to find ways to renew it.
It may seem absurd to take more breaks on our busiest weeks, knowing we may lose “precious” minutes of work time, but those are the weeks we most need breaks. Even knowing this, taking a break from work – even if just to step out for a short lunch break – can be hard to do. An overwhelming number of employees eat lunch at their desk every day, which makes for 9+ hour days of sitting straight through the day. (Speaking of eating at one’s desk…have you seen the funny site Sad Desk Lunch? This hits pretty close to home for many of us!)
A few good quick restorative options are to take a brisk walk, hit up a spin class at a nearby gym, or book a short massage during your lunch break. Many days, this just may not be possible. On those days when you simply can’t take the time off, there are other theories of productivity boosters such as the tried-and-true quick fix of looking at picture of puppies which, the ever reliable sources, HuffPo and BuzzFeed, say are “scientifically proven” to increase your productivity. (In case BuzzFeed is blocked at your place of work, I’m including an example of one such puppy photo for you here:
Schwartz realized the power of renewal first-hand while writing his fourth and fifth books, which he did using the 90-minute interval technique. This interval naturally aligns with our bodies’ rhythm and signals when we need breaks at the end of each cycle—but we generally ignore these signals and opt for a sugar, caffeine, or adrenaline for a boost instead. Schwartz found that when he worked in four 90-minutes cycles per day, with renewal breaks in between, he churned out his books twice as fast, even though he spent fewer hours working on them each day. He believes that energizing ourselves is so important that he founded a company called The Energy Project to do just that for employees of companies ranging from Google to Cleveland Clinic. To paraphrase The Energy Project’s motto: “Work Hard. Renew Hard.”
Productivity is also inextricably tied to the amount of sleep we get each night. We all are aware of the importance of a good night’s sleep before a big exam or athletic competition, but often overlook the old regular nights. We can so easily get caught up in the vicious cycle of working late, which leads to staying up late to accomplish the rest of the things we need to do, which leads to waking up tired…and then doing it all over again the next day. Sleep can also be compromised if your boss is under the misconception that emailing at all hours of the day or night is an indication of a strong work ethic — which is slightly ironic, since sleeping too little is one of the major predictors of on-the-job burn-out!
Because getting more sleep each night and taking daytime naps are not a reality for many people, striking a healthy work-life balance and taking renewal breaks during the day may be the only solution for increasing productivity.
Q: Besides increased sleep, how else can we increase productivity?
A: Relaxation and renewal. (And looking at pictures of baby animals…maybe.)
Now then, go forth and relax!