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Less haste, less waste

There are  a number of sayings/clichés around with the same basic message of doing things too fast can lead to errors and actually take more time.

Slow and steady wins the race

A stitch in time saves nine

Haste makes waste (or more haste, less speed)

For fast acting relief, slow down (Lily Tomlin)

And like all clichés, there is a lot of truth there – we’ve all faced the hassle of going back and redoing something we rushed the first time (or paid another price for rushing).

Uninterrupted focus

Did you know that the maximum time an average worker gets to focus uninterrupted on tasks is 11 minutes? That’s according to a University of California study, anyway.

11 minutes is nothing! It says a lot about the fast paced world we’re living in. And says a lot for behaviours like only checking emails at certain times of the day to avoid constant distractions (add in the same rule for checking social media, answering phone calls, listening to office conversations and so forth).

Stressed man with laptop and looking at his watch

Even on the go, checking messages means we get no break from disruptions

The study also stated that after 20 minutes of interrupted work, people are more stressed, frustrated and feel they have a heavier workload.

Interestingly, in a follow on study run Carnegie Mellon, tests showed that after the first interruption, people do adapt a little and can cope better with subsequent interruptions. But interruptions and the threat of interruptions does reduce the effectiveness of the brain.

Are you working in a highly distracting environment? Are you aware of it stressing you?

Working from my own office, rather than in a corporate office with many people around me, probably means I tilt such averages well past 11 minutes. I do enjoy the fact that I don’t hear colleagues chatting around me, nor their phones ringing and am not distracted by people walking past my office all day.

Of course, I do have young children who are quite capable of interrupting me, too! However, between other people keeping them entertained and choosing my working hours, I minimise that issue.

I set myself work sessions where I only check emails if I need to reference something and let the answering machine manage my phone calls (and enjoy it when marketing calls are filtered!) So I do get periods of focus – and I usually get a lot achieved in those sessions, too.

I think it’s worth slowing down, not just to be more productive and feel less stressed (both worthwhile aims), but also to give your mind more time and freedom to be creative and develop ideas.

Speed up productivity

Doug Keene, Vice-Director of an air-logistics complex trying to reduce employee distractions, said multi-tasking isn’t necessarily a good thing. “When you are focused on just a few things, you tend to solve problems faster. You can’t disguise the problem by looking like you’re really busy.”

At a recent conference, Andrew May ( a performance coach), discussed these results and how stressful they are on people. He gave the following ideas and suggestions {paraphrased and added to by me!}:

  1. slow down – focus instead of trying to do so many things at once
  2. take some time out as ‘enforced isolation’ so your brain can just focus on one thing for a while – it makes you productive and can be quite peaceful. May recommends a few hours a week, at least, and to plan it for high energy times
  3. find  a balance with recovery time to counter the stress. A five minute lunch break at your desk is not going to make up for five hours of interruptions – you need to find ways to recharge regularly.
  4. have some electronic free time in the evening before heading to bed so your brain can quieten before you try to sleep. You’ll end up with higher quality sleep. May suggests 45 minutes before bed you have no electronic interruptions and no caffeine; and taking a lunch break of 15 minutes without a mobile.

What can you do (or do you do) to help recover from stressful working conditions?

Do you find your productivity is clearly matched to times you do and don’t take recovery time?

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