by Derek Irvine
Through his Energy Project Tony Schwartz has long been an innovator and instigator in the realm of how we can bring our best selves to work and sustain that level of great effort throughout the days, weeks, months and years. In light of our discussions around creating more WorkHuman cultures, it’s important to me to highlight his work.
For example, this article is powerful for framing how you can produce more and get better results at work by focusing on your “energy renewal.” Humans work on 90 minute cycles of energy, after which our energy and productivity drops. Schwartz explains that time is a finite resource, but energy can be renewed and expanded through specific rituals. We can’t get more time in the day, but we actually don’t need it. By renewing our energy through specific techniques, we can remain at our highest level of both productivity and happiness.
Here are five techniques that will keep you at your peak productivity:
1. Take effective breaks
60% of Americans don’t take time in their day to recharge. Taking a break every 90 minutes sounds unproductive, but even a few minutes of effective rest can elevate energy levels. Cyberloafing, (such as checking social media or personal email) does not relax and recharge you as much as 6 to 10-minute power naps, breathing exercises, or walking outside. When your brain is not focused on a particular task and you change your environment, you can solve problems and get your most innovative ideas.
2. Sleep more at night
A Harvard study revealed US companies are losing $63.2 billion on lost productivity due to workers’ sleep deprivation. 61% of Americans often get less than 7-8 hours of sleep at night and wake up feeling tired. Sleep affects irritability. One study included a story of Gary Faro, a VP at Wachovia, who saw his “energy levels soar” (and weight drop 50 pounds) when he started sleeping more and taking regular breaks away from his desk. Another Schwartz study showed the same results for Steve Wanner, a partner at Ernst & Young, who changed his habits and was able to enjoy more time with his family andhavehigher productivity in his job.
3. Identify your priorities
Sit down and map out your goals. Then track how much time you spend doing each activity. At the end of the day look at how much of your time you spent on meaningful tasks that worked towards meeting your goals. How can you modify your work flow to focus on your work habits?
4. Spend your most productive hours working on your priorities
Spend your most productive hours of your day working on priority goals rather than administrative or reactive activities. Take a rest or social break during the mid-afternoon when humans are least energetic.
5. Stop multitasking
Multitasking is the activity of switching, not being productive. “Switching time” increases the time it takes to complete your primary task by 25%. See if any of the distractions are avoidable for all or a few hours of your day (such as switching off the notifications for new emails or logging out of personal social media).
When you are happy and passionate about something, you are more driven and creative. Schwartz explains, “Without intermittent recovery, we’re not physiologically capable of sustaining highly positive emotions for long periods [and] most people perform best when they’re feeling positive energy.” So, take time for breaks and come back happier and energized.
Energy is the catalyst for creativity and the fuel powering hard work. When was the last time you worked extra hours? When was the last time you took a break to reenergize? When was the last time you were at your peak performance?
About Derek Irvine
The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.