You know that guy – we all work with one – who works late every night and comes in on the weekend, yet he doesn’t ever seem to get much done? He has all of these projects on his plate and you may even have to help him out by doing some of his work for him. He prides himself on how little sleep he gets because of all of the work he’s doing, and he has little-to-no personal life, which he wears as a badge of honor. We wonder why he doesn’t make some changes to have a better life, and we’re glad we aren’t him. Yet a part of us admires his dedication and work ethic – and we’re more like him than we may think.
An interesting article just came out in the Harvard Business Review (read it here) that shows that the business world is now listening to research psychologists and is concerned with their findings. For awhile now, researchers have been publishing article after article, which, when taken together, show that we tend to program ourselves (or are programmed by others) to maintain momentum of action even when we have nothing to do. We tend to avoid idleness at all costs, even when it serves us to take more productive action later, in favor of constant action, even when it gets us nowhere and decreases our productivity.
Why is this? Our society definitely rewards us for being busy. We are programmed by our bosses to work long hours without taking breaks, eating lunch at our desks. It’s not like we’re trolling Facebook; we’re working on our projects and keeping ourselves organized. We’re doing what every good little worker bee should be doing.
Perhaps we make a few unnecessary trips to the break room for coffee throughout the day, but what’s really killing our productivity is what we’re doing at our desks.
If you’re like most people, you probably feel like you get more done when you’re humming along at a good pace, fueled by caffeine and cortisol (a big stress hormone). You can multitask like a boss and make decisions quickly and easily to keep your business moving, moving, moving. As it turns out, the success of this approach is only in our heads. We may be doing better than before, now that we have some processes figured out and securely implemented and everyone knows what they need to do. That’s great, but what if you could make whatever you’re doing now even more productive? I don’t mean implementing new, more efficient processes, though that might be a good idea, too. I mean maximizing the effectiveness of every worker in your business, including you.
What are the two things that the Harvard Business Review is now telling us to do to be more productive?
Stretch & smile!