Workplace burnout is real. I know, because I’ve been there, and I know most others have as well at some point or another. Thrive Global’s Arianna Huffington is no different. She’s on a mission to fix what she deems a “culture of burnout,” after her own collapse from exhaustion in 2007.
Huffington rightly says: “When we take care of ourselves, we are more effective, we are more creative and we are more successful in a broad definition of the word.”
Medical News Bulletin recently published “Can Positive Psychology Traits Prevent Burnout?,” referencing a study where participants completed a survey about the balance of the effort versus reward from a job. This particular research was focused on the manufacturing industry in China, given the “monotonous and repetitive nature of their work,” but this can be said for many professions and sectors. It was found that hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism can help to manage work stress, and people with these qualities are less likely to become burnt out.
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There have been many studies published over the years that working less results in higher productivity (hint: the optimal number is less than 40 hours per week). Perhaps even more important is that it’s nearly impossible to stay focused for long stretches at a time. Some research suggests that you should be breaking as frequently as every hour.
Work smarter not harder
In line with that, I believe in working smarter, not harder. While there are 24 hours in a day, they weren’t all made for work. I’m in the camp that working eight hours nonstop is actually more unproductive than it is beneficial. Your brain has peak operating times, and what works for one may not work for another.
Some people are at their best in the mornings, while others are most efficient late at night. I firmly believe that dictating what hours you should work and when is not the best method to yield quality work.
I often get asked how I can get things done. I work from home, and some have the perspective that I have no one to hold me accountable throughout the day. Inquiring minds wonder everything from what my daily schedule looks like, to how I motivate myself to finish up a project or prospect for my next client.
Let me start by saying that I strongly value flexibility. It’s the reason why working for myself is the best fit for me. But I hold myself accountable, and there’s a certain amount of self-discipline involved in doing that. Everything I do is because I’ve set goals for myself.
I have a duty to uphold to my clients and my partners, and a commitment to myself about the success of my business. I also pride myself in the underrated aspect of efficiency. It’s not how long you do something for, but how well you do it.
Several books I’ve read over the years on this topic have stuck with me. Getting Things Done, by David Allen, addresses the two-minute rule. If you can do something in two minutes or less, do it now. Don’t make a note and come back to it later. The time you spend thinking about it, planning it and recording it is more than the time it actually takes to complete the task.
Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week covers the topic of efficiency as well. He’s a prime example of taking the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” to a whole new level. To be successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to work more, only that you need to work more efficiently.
Based on experience, I’ve adopted these top five tips to do just that:
Free up your mind
There is no need to remember everything. You read that right. Why are you keeping everything in your mind, which only serves to bog you down and make you feel overwhelmed? Find a record-keeping system that works for you.
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Some people prefer old-fashioned paper notes. I prefer electronic. With a Mac laptop and an iPhone, I use Notes and Reminders apps to store everything I need to do or think about. I schedule reminder times to make sure I’ve checked something off my list. No matter what device I’m on, I know it’s available to me.
Plus, I schedule everything on my calendar – my morning activities to start my day, hours allocated for every client and even things like time to take a walk. But again, I’m flexible. I move things around as needed, but I know I have set time to focus on a task at hand.
Plan and bucket
Some projects seem daunting from the start, but they need to be done whether you want to or not. Oftentimes the hardest part of a project is starting it.
Create a plan and break it down into manageable chunks. If you can complete a portion each day, not only will your mind stay sharp, but that focus will also help to make the task more bearable. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Follow the 80/20 rule
I’m a longtime follower of the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle: 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the work.
Why are you spending time on things that take 80 percent of your resources but deliver 20 percent of the value?
Stop doing meaningless tasks, or outsource them if they must be done. Prioritisation is one of the most important keys to efficiency.
It might seem counter intuitive that you can get more done by working less, but the human mind was not created to work non-stop. As research suggests, breaks are beneficial. Go for a walk, have lunch away from your desk, read a book, catch up with a friend or colleague – I promise you’ll feel refreshed and ready to reengage.
The 40-hour workweek is so synonymous with the American culture that it’s unlikely to change in the corporate world anytime soon. Most of us know that 40 hours isn’t really 40 hours anyway, it’s “whatever it takes.” That being said, with influencers like Huffington working to educate companies on the detriments of overwork, there’s hope.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard – it’s to be admired and valued. But don’t work long hours only for the sake of it. The companies that are getting it right realise that face time isn’t everything.
The results you deliver, the reputation you hold and the relationships you build should always outweigh the hours of your workweek. As an entrepreneur, you can take advantage of this and you can evangelise this approach to others. Work smarter, not harder, and you’ll be better for it.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Attract Wealth With These 7 Feng Shui Tips For Your Office
Want to bring good vibrations into your office and attract greater wealth? These seven feng shui tips can help you attract the flow of prosperity energy.
We’ve all heard how feng shui can help in attracting positive energy into your home and workspace. But what about attracting wealth? Well, the feng shui philosophy embraces that notion that energy in all its forms can be manipulated by the conscious placement of objects in our living and working spaces.
Of course, as with anything, feng shui is not the be all and end all. Good feng shui won’t bring you wealth if you aren’t actively striving for it in your business, however it does allow you to attract the right energy into your office space to support your efforts.
So, how do you go about ‘feng shuing’ your office space to encourage the flow of prosperity energy?
Here are seven feng shui ways:
Why Rest Is the Secret To Entrepreneurial Success
The surprising power of downtime: Here’s why the most successful founders work the least.
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land mammal. These feline sprinters can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds flat. Explosive speed enables them to take down an antelope, but when they’re not hunting, cheetahs expend as little energy as possible.
In fact, researchers found that cheetahs burn about 2 000 calories per day – the same as an average-size man. “I guess both humans and cheetahs rest a lot to offset high-energy activities,” biologist Johnny Wilson told National Geographic.
Cheetahs work hard to capture their prey, but they quickly compensate for each burst by hiding, waiting and resting. Clearly, they don’t have startups to run, but I can’t help but draw a parallel between these big cats and modern founders.
In the early days of my 12-year entrepreneurial journey, I was the anti-cheetah. I thought success required 16-hour workdays. I was constantly building, growing and hustling. Over the years, I’ve learned that busy and successful are not the same thing. Yet, many of us spend the whole day sprinting, to the point where we’re stressed and exhausted.
According to Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, busyness has become a widespread health issue:
“Emotional distress due to overbusyness manifests as difficulty focusing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, trouble getting adequate sleep, and mental and physical fatigue.”
As I’ve built my company, JotForm, I’ve learned that when we know how to balance work with restorative rest, our productivity can skyrocket — and we might even catch more antelope.
The roots of busyness run deep
Scholars believe Homer wrote the Odyssey near the end of the 8th century B.C. In book 9 of this epic poem, Odysseus describes the island of the Lotus-eaters, where the natives spend their days lounging and eating the intoxicating lotus fruit.
Once Odysseus’ crew tries the fruit, they forget about home and long to live out their days on the idyllic island. Eventually, Odysseus drags his men back to the ship and locks them up to break the spell.
Talk about a parable for laziness. It seems even Greek philosophers prized industry, and yes, busyness. Today, everyone from founders to football coaches despise anything that implies complacency. We’re always pushing to do more, to improve ourselves and to stay constantly in motion.
Subconsciously, we even evaluate peoples’ worth based on how many hours they work or how “in demand” they are. We prize “busy” above all else. At a certain point, however, we have to make a choice: Do we want to be busy, or do we want to make an impact?
Nothing is more precious than time. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Escaping the cult of “busy” means taking time to rest – and it requires us to step back and re-evaluate what matters most. I’d like to share how I’ve learned to reject the frenetic pace of startup culture, and how you can, too.
Start small – and take breaks
Busyness robs us of precious hours: to think, play, explore, nurture relationships – and to rest.
“There is a simple way to take back your time: Do less,” journalist Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson wrote in John Hopkins Health Review.
“And yet, those two words are perhaps the most challenging call to action. Doing less means understanding your priorities and constantly defending them against the encroachments of the status quo, which dictates that busyness – and material wealth and value – is best.”
As Dickinson says, it’s not easy to reverse our mental conditioning. Doing less isn’t as simple as it sounds. That’s why I recommend starting small. First, take the time to discover your peak hours, then take breaks throughout the day. Not only will you feel better, but these short rest periods can actually improve the quality of your work.
In fact, regular breaks can prevent decision fatigue, restore motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and consolidate memories. Breaks that involve even five minutes of movement can also improve our health and well-being.
Taking time to grab a coffee or chat with a team member is far from “doing nothing,” but it’s an important way to step off the metaphorical treadmill and re-establish your priorities.
Reserve time for reflection
Some of the greatest founders, innovators and creators set aside large chunks of time just to reflect. For example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates first took solo Think Weeks – seven days spent reading, strategising and reflecting — before the idea spread through the company. Today, Gates credits those weeks with generating some of Microsoft’s top innovations.
Other founders, like Skillshare’s Mike Karnjanaprakorn, have now implemented the practice. So have Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Ferriss. Even people who can’t take a full week for reflection often thrive when they set limited working hours.
The late Dr. Maya Angelou, for example, always drew clear boundaries in her schedule. The legendary writer, poet, singer and activist arrived at her desk around the same time each day. Afterward, she set aside work to spend time with her family.
“I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon,” Angelou said in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.
“If the work is going badly, I stay until 12:30. If it’s going well, I’ll stay as long as it’s going well. It’s lonely, and it’s marvelous.”
Challenge your body
Rest doesn’t necessarily mean lounging out on the couch, watching Netflix in a glassy-eyed trance. The most effective downtime also involves physical exertion, whether that’s a long walk, a hike or a bike ride. Restorative activities can help to balance out more brain-intensive work.
Silicon Valley consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, says rest is a necessary form of mental restoration. And exercise is one of the best ways to recover the mental energy we need to perform at peak levels.
“There are so many people who find that a workout, a long hike, clears their minds, helps them calm down, gives their subconscious mind opportunity to think through problems,” Pang told Scientific American. “What all of that teaches us is that exercise is a really important form of rest.”
Embrace the digital Sabbath
At least one day a week, give yourself a technology break. It’s not easy to cut the psychological strings, but going device-free on a Saturday, a Sunday or another day of your choice can give your mind space to wander, while enhancing your creativity.
If a full day away from screens and notifications feels challenging, you’re not alone. But remember that a stressed, tired brain can’t generate fresh ideas. We’re also more likely to make mistakes and overcomplicate solutions when we’ve exhausted our mental reserves.
As the late Steve Jobs once said, “Simple thinking can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
VC-backed founders get the lion’s share of startup press. They make headlines with record-breaking funding rounds and dominate the top of TechCrunch. Outside investment can provide essential startup capital, but it can also tie founders to the pressures of hockey-stick growth targets and boards eager to recover their cash.
Instead of the 24/7 grind, I chose to bootstrap my company with a slow-and-steady approach to growth. It has taken time, and it hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve built a stable business that can even function without me. Most importantly, I have full control over my work and my life.
If that sounds like a privileged position, you’re absolutely right. I’m grateful for the ability to spend a whole summer with my wife and my newborn baby, for example, and I’ve worked hard to reach this point. Bootstrapping isn’t the right approach for everyone, but it can help you to maintain your freedom and live a more balanced life.
Work to live, instead of living to work
Even in a conversation about rest, we still tend to look through the lens of productivity. We’ve become obsessed with maximising every minute – and that’s fine, as long as we reclaim that time for our lives, not necessarily our work.
No matter how excited we may feel about our businesses, or each new project, a rich life also includes family, friends, exploration and adventure, in whatever proportion you desire. I certainly don’t want to regret relationships that fell apart while I was staring at a screen, or the opportunities I missed in the world outside my office.
Try to leave work at work – even if it’s in your home. Give yourself the gift of restorative downtime. And balance thinking hours with time spent in motion. Just like the cheetah, we can sprint to bring down the antelope, but then it’s time to rest.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Having The Time Of Your Life
How can you avoid a To-Do list that never gets ticked off by the end of the week? Or maximise the number of hours you work on critical projects, to achieve your career goals? And why is it important to take time out?
Being an entrepreneur is a constant balancing act between the demands of your business needs and your personal life. The key to a work/life balance that ensures you achieving your work and personal goals for the year ahead, is effective time management.
Time is our greatest resource and there are many ways in which to maximise your ability to manage this precious commodity. But how can you avoid a To-Do list that never gets ticked off by the end of the week? Or maximise the number of hours you work on critical projects, to achieve your career goals? And why is it important to take time out?
Unfortunately, time does equal money
In the modern workplace and in most businesses, time is synonymous with money. Whether you bill by the hour, or bake by the truckload, time is essential in running a successful career and business. Just think of how important time is in the service industry, and how time influences purchasing decisions. Think of all the drive-through fast food chains in a city – all there to save time. Because time is indeed money, it is critical to prioritise your time effectively. Keep in mind your most pressing deadlines, plan ahead and prioritise clients and customers effectively.
Me-time with a twist
Self-management impacts on your personal effectiveness and includes managing yourself and your time, being responsible for your achievements and being accountable for your results and successes. In business, if you prioritise a company’s time more efficiently, it can lead to improved customer service, improved delivery, increased profits, and increased market shares.
Imagine what it could do for you if you made the mind shift to prioritise your time and self-regulate your time daily?
Visualise that empty inbox
Start by removing thoughts of procrastination and imagine yourself as a “doer.” Think of the benefits of becoming a doer. What would our work life be like if we organised our tasks in order of importance, and not in order of enjoyment? What would it feel like to be thought of as someone who “got things done” and was “reliable?” How would we handle our paperwork? Imagine having an empty in-tray.
Critically, managing your time and self-regulating the hours, minutes and seconds in a work day will free up time for the people that matter in your life. Go watch that ballet recital or cricket game you never have time for. Have a coffee with a fellow entrepreneur and see how these small acts of rewarding you for time well spent, with energise you in your daily tasks.
Ditch the time wasters
A Time Waster is anything (or anyone) that doesn’t contribute to your daily goals or your To-Do List. Many of these time wasters have become a natural part of our work style. Now is the time to change – to reverse the process. It will take time and effort to get rid of time-wasting habits. Research shows that it takes approximately 21 days to change a habit.
For example, at first, we will have to make a conscious effort to keep our meetings on track. If things are dragging on, we need to stand up and indicate that the meeting is over (if you are running it), or to be excused (if your input is no longer required). This applies to all the time-wasting habits we have acquired.
It may be uncomfortable at first to tell a colleague that you are busy and unable to chat – but as you get used to being assertive and as they get accustomed to the fact that you are not always available – then it will become easier.
More tips to deal with time wasters
- Fix a time for paperwork and admin;
- Have clear daily objectives;
- Delegate work as needed;
- Group your telephone calls;
- Be assertive with unannounced visitors.
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