We’re 2 months into the new year and if you’re like most it probably feels like the break over Christmas is a distant memory. I’ve fallen into a familiar trap over the last couple of weeks and now it’s time for me to eat my own dog food. I’ve been going at quite the pace and treating my days and weeks as if I was running a marathon like a sprint. The problem with that of course is that it can be exhausting and my energy levels never really get a chance to recover before I go again. It’s clearly not sustainable and although the level of effort is the same, the level of productivity (or value I add) decreases and the level of stress remain consistently high. Think of it like the law of diminishing returns.
Here’s how it commonly works…
As effort increases so does our productivity (value) and stress levels. Our effort tends to hit a plateau at some stage during the day and we continue to churn on; however, our productivity level starts to slide and our stress level continues to rise.
This isn’t sustainable in the long run. That’s when fatigue can kick in and our motivation for work (and life) can seem like it’s all just too much like hard work.
So what’s the solution? The solution is introducing what is called ‘Strategic Downtime’. Strategic Downtime is about consciously scheduling mini-breaks throughout your working day to reset and refocus on the work you’re doing. This approach will ensure that each task or meeting is tackled with gusto and energy increasing your productivity and your overall value contribution throughout the day.
This is what it might look like…
As you can see, our effort increases in the same way at the start of the day as does our stress and productivity but then we consciously introduce strategic downtime. Obviously our productivity goes down but it doesn’t go down to zero because during the strategic downtown we’re preparing ourselves for what’s coming next whilst taking time out. The big benefit, of course, is that our stress levels reduce significantly before we go again. This is important because high stress during the day is a drain on our energy levels, impairs our judgement, impacts our ability to make effective decisions, and impedes our emotional regulation.
So what might this look like in reality? It’s different for everyone and so it might take a little bit of experimentation to find the sweet spot for you. As an example, a productivity phase may last for 1.5 – 2 hours. During this time you commit yourself to achieving something important in that time, ideally without interruption. Once you achieve that mini-goal decide what task is next and then take a short break (strategic downtime). This might consist of grabbing a cup of coffee or a glass of water, going for a walk around the block, or chatting with a colleague. A short break might last only 5 or 10 minutes but it’s enough for us to reset for the next task. The working day should be broken into a series of sprints with the aim of producing high value outputs during each productivity phase.
The added bonus to this approach is you will have much more energy at the end of the day to carry out what is arguably the most important work of the day… time with your children and family.
I hope you take a moment to implement this approach and give it a go. I recommend trying it for a couple of weeks and notice the difference in your productivity and overall energy levels throughout the day.
If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
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