Monday, March 23, 2009

Work Less Hours and Increase Your Earnings

I do believe in the counter-intuitive nature of life. It plays out all the time in business as well. Less is definately more. Pull is stronger than push. Listen to influence more. And the list goes on. My book, The Connected and Committed Leader. Lessons from Home. Results at Work. highlights 7 leadership insights that are based on this counter-intuitive understanding.

We are at a time now where people are being asked to achieve more with less, oftentimes picking up the jobs of 2 or 3 people that have been let go. This is a time when we need to work less to generate more.

I have tapped into Dr. Gaby Cora who works with people and companies that want to be healthy while they become wealthy. I think her perspective is spot-on. Here is what she has to say:

In an ideal world, we would dedicate eight hours of our day to work, another eight to enjoy recreational activities and the last eight hours to sleep. The true question is, how many of you live in the ideal world?

Instead, in the real world, most people work twelve to sixteen hours every day, with little recreational time and with less sleep. Forget about taking any vacation during the financial crisis. People worry about keeping their job, lay-offs, foreclosures and downsizing.

While people are doing the work of two or three employees these days, being on the go 24/7 is counterproductive to high performance and increased productivity at work. Even athletes know that their performance will start to decrease if they train too hard or for too long.

This is no different at work. Have you ever experienced feeling stuck on a particular computer program or document and you try and you try again completely frustrated. You then realize you’ve been trying to resolve the problem for two hours. You decide to take a break, refresh your mind, you do something else and, when you return to the computer, you resolve the two-hour problem with two clicks in a couple of minutes. Your mind had gotten stuck and, although the answer was right in front of you, you couldn’t see it because you were focusing on the problem, not the solution.

In some instances, people work so much that the pressure starts taking a toll on their health. Many don’t seek for help until they are experiencing medical problems.
Although stress can be motivating and inspiring, too much stress may trigger anxiety, depression, headaches, increased blood pressure or gastrointestinal problems.

Why does this happen? When we over exhaust our bodies or our minds, instead of producing more and increase our earnings, we run out of ideas, unable to think of positive ways to resolve our challenges. We get stuck on the problems and have trouble looking at all options for a positive resolution. Instead, when we keep busy but we are able to refresh our minds we are then better able to make sound decisions that will have a positive impact on our ability to build our wealth.

The following are some tips to assist you as you strive to increase your earnings while working fewer hours:

1) Think of effective hours of work rather than number of hours of work: You may believe that you are the only one who can do everything that you do, but keep track of your activities. You will be surprised when you realize how you distribute – or waste - your time. Common traps include the constant use of email, BlackBerries, PDAs of phones rather than allocating time to respond to emails, for example.

2) Set up clear priorities: Make sure that you achieve what is high on your list and that you discard the actions that have been on your list but that haven’t been done in months or years. It’s time to let go. If you claim that everything is an emergency you will fall in the trap of responding to fires all the time rather than creating ways to increase your earnings.

3) Have a Plan: Most people don’t have a plan and many who do leave it in the drawer without checking their progress. By having a plan, you can constantly follow your progress and decide whether you are achieving your desired goals and earnings. Without a plan, you will end up busy and exhausted and will continue to have more of busyness and exhaustion. If you have never created a plan, this is a great time to start.

4) Cut down your working hours from 16 to 12 or from 12 to 10: What would you do if you were forced to work less hours and be more efficient with your time? Unfortunately, many feel pressured to do this after they have become too sick to work many hours or when life circumstances have impacted upon their ability to work. By creating a sense of urgency and efficiency, you can force yourself to become more focused, more effective, and more productive.

5) Find effective ways to relax: Eat, exercise, sleep and relax. If you are an executive or entrepreneur and you are leading under pressure, you will need to find and integrate times to eat, exercise, sleep and relax in your busy schedule. Avoid too much caffeine during the day and the negative cycle of daily caffeine and alcohol or hypnotics at night. It is not a matter of whether someone who is overworked will exhaust his or her energy; it’s a matter of time: When will they burn out? Learn relaxation techniques including guided imagery or meditation. Listen to music or find a hobby. In addition to these strategies, exercising is a must for busy corporate warriors and business owners. Repetitive exercises tend to be the best to help de-stress. Others prefer Yoga and Tai Chi. Nothing beats sleeping well at night.

What do you think about these 5 points?

I particularly like point number 4. I think we often factor in too much murphy time for projects and it is always amazing how much we can get done when we compress those timelines. I am going to try to compress more often to get more done. What are you going to do differently?

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