If you are working without breaks - you’re not productive. FACT!
All this modern technology was supposed to make our lives easier. But has your working day got shorter? The recession hasn’t helped, with many of us feeling so lucky to be in work, that we are happy to put in longer hours in order to demonstrate our commitment.
But although we are spending more time in the office, perhaps we aren’t being any more effective. A lot of the day can be taken up checking emails, filling in time sheets and sitting in meetings – activities that are good at eating up time, but how much do they actually achieve?
Jean Gomes, co-author of New York Times bestseller, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working (launching in the UK on 8 July), argues that we need to rethink our response to the rising demands of work. Gomes says that long hours permeate the PR industry, as budgets tighten and the pressure to do more with less increases. But Gomes questions whether working longer hours is worth it: “The fact is that the more continuously and longer you work, the less incremental return you get on each additional hour.”
Gomes argues that we are adapting badly to the Internet age. He explains: “Humans aren’t meant to perform like computers, at high speed, continuously, for long periods of time. Yet we try to do so, neglecting our four key needs – our physical needs, met through fitness, nutrition and rest; our emotional need to feel valued; our mental need to control our attention; and our spiritual need to believe that what we do matters.“
Gomes says that PR leaders who make sure their businesses meet the fundamental needs of their employees can “open up a huge untapped reservoir of value.“ After all, says Gomes, human beings operate best when moving between expending their energy (which their bosses tend to reward) and renewing energy (which they tend to undervalue). But, as Gomes points out: “Recovery, or renewal, is particularly important in a creative industry, where we often have our best ideas after time out.”
Gomes argues that technology has stolen our natural recovery time. He points out that it is not uncommon for people to check their emails constantly, even when they are in the bathroom or in the bedroom. He says: “Few now feel that they have the luxury of a mobile-free car journey or a laptop-free flight. So unless you intentionally build renewal time, it will have disappeared.”
So what are the ways to work more effectively? Gomes suggests working in 60- to 90-minute bursts, and taking short breaks in between. He says this works because there is a rhythm in our bodies – the Ultradian rhythm – that operates in 90-minute intervals: “If you’re working beyond 90 minutes, your performance starts to decline. In clients who’ve embraced this idea, it’s led to a fundamental rethink about meetings that often drag well over this time.”
So if you want to feel human, and act as efficiently you can, you need to act like a human. As Gomes concludes: “As the world speeds up, we can choose how we respond. We can act like computers and burn out, or flow with our natural cycles and perform optimally.”
We asked: “What is the biggest waste of your time?”
Katharina Winkler, freelance PR consultant:
"In a nutshell, modern methods of communication that were intended to save time just become the biggest time wasters. The key is to manage your exposure to them effectively and select electronic tools wisely to suit your needs. Not always easy though if you're in cc-status of 50 group emails a day. Meetings are another time waster if not conducted with a real purpose in mind. Meetings and regular catch ups for the sake of it don't serve anyone.”
Ursula Benson, managing director of marketing communications agency Totem:
"Being chased daily by email for timesheets that you don't have time to complete. In fact, if you open the email it is a miracle. Circle. Ever. Decreasing."
Rob Forbes, company director at agency Generator PR:
“The biggest waste of time – trying to backwards guess people who communicate thus: “No, that’s not right” or, “Think you need to look at the website". I need to know which bit is wrong and exactly what part of the website! Sometimes third parties in business need to communicate in a clearer manner …”
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