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Mar 06, 2019 | 4 Minute Read

How to Work Smarter, Not Harder

mountain climber

Personally, I feel there is nothing natural about waking up before the sun rises. In fact, I’d call it lunacy. Since the word lunacy derives from the term lunaticus meaning "of the moon" or "moonstruck," it really does fit. When the moon is out, the only thing I want to accomplish is catching up on my sleep.

Now, by no means does that indicate a slacker mentality. When I do wake up, I’m the kind of person that gets going and doesn’t stop until the moon is back up high in the sky. I often refer to myself as being like an old car; it might take a moment for the car to warm up and perform optimally, but when it does, get out of the way because that old heavy metal thunder will be barreling down the road with a purpose.


2 simple rules of life

I’ve found that life is really quite simple. There’s a few basic rules I try to follow and, when I do, I find things work out quite well. The first rule is that there is no answer for lack of sleep. You can drink all the coffee, tea, Red Bull, Monster or heart-racing beverage of choice and it doesn’t matter. For every energy peak, there is an equally intensive crash to follow. For me personally, it’s not worth the ups and downs.

Another rule I follow is to try to do things that energize me. Every single thing you do, every interaction you have and every moment of your life is spent either being energized or having your energy zapped. I’ve found that if you can at least be energized 51% of your day, that day will be considered a success. Think about how you feel on those days where your energy gets zapped; do you feel lifeless, unmotivated and maybe a little crabby too?

People frequently talk about doing what you love and having a career that provides meaning, but that all ties back to either being energized or energy drained. Keep it simple: get enough sleep and do things that give you energy. If you can accomplish this, life improves.


What’s the rush?

Sadly, today’s workplace encourages overworking employees. It’s seen by many as a badge of honor if you can outwork your peers, even if the end result is your mental and physical health. Instead of protecting employees against burnout, some companies push workers to the limit, and then replace them with reinforcements that they treat in the same manner.

Why not just work at a reasonable pace? Get the work done and do it well. Work shouldn’t be a competition and, last time I checked, quality work is still a valued commodity.


Modeling success

Richard BransonRichard Branson is someone I admire a great deal. Whether it’s his success, his carefree spirit or willingness to expand his comfort zone daily, Branson is an inspiration in many ways. I find it interesting that Richard Branson does not believe in spending time in an office. In his book, Finding My Virginity, he talks about his preference to work from home where he finds he is much more productive.

He talks about waking up, jumping in his hammock, catching up on correspondences and communicating with key business contacts until midday. At that point, he typically breaks to enjoy kite surfing in the waters of his British Virgin Islands home. He doesn’t time his midday break, rather preferring to let the ebb and flow of the day dictate how long he decides to step away from work.

Branson claims that when he returns to work, he is recharged and ready to go. Despite exerting energy to kite surf, he has re-energized both his body and his mind, making himself ready for the second half of his day.

It’s hard to argue with the success of Richard Branson, and it certainly appears his daily approach seems to be working. While kitesurfing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I can imagine the benefits of a good midday hike, run or meditation could work wonders for someone’s energy levels.


The value of a proper night’s sleep

According to an article written by startup founder Anna Auerbach, recent research at Hult International Business School shows how sleep deprivation affects job performance. She says, "Many survey respondents reported poorer workplace performance due to tiredness, with over half admitting to struggling to stay focused in meetings, taking longer to complete tasks, and finding it challenging to generate new ideas. Along with a lack of focus and diminished creative capacities, participants also indicated a reduced motivation to learn and be less able to manage competing demands."

In Arianna Huffington’s book entitled Sleep Revolution Manifesto, she proclaims, “Sleep is a fundamental and non-negotiable human need." And, "Exhaustion is a sign of chaos, not a badge of honor." So why do we continue to push ourselves beyond reasonable limits? What are we trying to prove and who do we feel we need to impress?


Commutes

traffic jamLet’s talk about commutes. How productive can one truly be behind the wheel of a car? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute in the United States is 25.4 minutes. Of course, in larger cities with more traffic, that number is typically higher.

In our metro area of Phoenix, the average commute time is 25.9 minutes. However, according to employment agency Robert Half, Phoenix also has the dubious distinction of being ranked at the 4th most stressful commute in the country, behind Los Angeles, Miami and Austin, just ahead of San Francisco. With many people believing 101 is the speed limit and not the interstate number, who am I to disagree?

Imagine what could happen if you trade in that 30-60 minute stressful daily drive into productive time spent working when you are ready to perform at a high level. Your work would improve, your stress would reduce and you could exchange that commute time for an extended midday break to recharge.


Summing it up

The world we live in doesn’t always revolve around a clock, nor should it. There is no defined proof that a person works better during specific business hours. So why do we continue to confine people to these hours? The key is to make work hours flexible in order to accommodate  life and livelihood. Being happy and energized at least 51% of the time will improve the chances of increased productivity and a better overall state-of-mind.

 

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Dave Clark
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