Are you like many Americans who worked during the 4th of July weekend? I’ll be honest…we were in that group. But for as much writing and email catching up as we did, it wasn’t stressful for us. We had a great holiday and accomplished a significant amount of work at the same time by pacing ourselves and interspersing the frivolous with the necessary.
Needing to be in Palo Alto, we’re taking our time going up the Coast of California, both working and playing as we traveled. It has been marvelous. We love what we do.
We can only say that because we’ve found a balance that allows us to travel, raise children and excel at what we do for a living. We’ve carved a life out of steady, dynamic work mixed with non-work enjoyment and we’re happier for it. We don’t work constantly, but we work consistently with breaks to relax and do what’s truly important.
The non-stop grind
For every couple like us, there are many more that aren’t so fortunate and feel under work’s thumb. It’s not surprising when you consider the pressure people feel to be constantly more productive. There’s a growing perception in business that being successful requires constant attention to work, and people have never been more enabled with our devices and connectivity. People feel obligated to never be out of touch with their bosses and coworkers and are afraid of being the one who isn’t reachable when something happens.
Tony Schwartz advice
For those folks, it wouldn’t hurt to follow The Energy Project, a site run by Tony Schwartz, the renowned ‘guru of productivity’. He has great advice when it comes to burnout that would seem counterintuitive to those who feel the pressure to never let up: take a break.
Until now, leaders of organizations have chosen to simply work more hours — and they’ve asked their employees to do the same. The result is decreasing return on each incremental hour invested — and a lower quality of work. The ethic of more, bigger, faster literally isn’t sustainable in a world of finite resources.
The counterintuitive answer is to ennoble the role of renewal in organizations. The greater the demand, the greater the need to intermittently rest, refuel and reflect. Unfortunately, our inclination is to do just the opposite — to push harder and more continuously as the pressure grows.
In fact, it’s not the number of hours we work that determines the value we create. Rather, it’s the quality of energy we bring to the hours we work. By renewing regularly, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, more sustainably. When we’re less fatigued, we’re not only less prey to negative emotions, we’re also more likely to access the positive ones we need to feel to perform at our best.
In our experience, Schwartz is absolutely right. It isn’t about ten-hour stretches of busyness, five days per week, nor is it constant checking of the iPhone, morning, noon and night, that make a person productive. It is the ability to ‘go at it’ and then take a relaxing break. It clears the head and creates space in your brain for more productivity. Give it a try.