High Performance Habits: #4 Increase Productivity 1 (part 10 of 22)



To get the most out of this chapter, it’s important that you set aside any preconceived notions about work-life balance or whether seeking tangible achievements in life is a worthy goal. Stay openminded, because mastering this habit can have far-reaching consequences into every aspect of your life, especially how you feel about yourself and the world in general. Our research found that if you feel you are more productive, you are statistically more likely to feel happier, more successful, and more confident. You’re also more likely to take better care of yourself, get promoted more often, and earn more than people who feel less productive. These are not my opinions; they are important and measurable life outcomes that we’ve found in multiple surveys and studies.

Productivity Basics

The fundamentals of becoming more productive are setting goals and maintaining energy and focus. No goals, no focus, no energy – and you’re dead in the water.

Productivity starts with goals. When you have clear and challenging goals, you tend to be more focused and engaged, which leads to greater sense of flow and enjoyment in what you’re doing.

Energy is another huge factor in determining productivity. As we discussed in chapter three, almost everything you do to take good care of yourself matter in increasing your high performance.

You’ll recall that capital “E” Energy wasn’t just about sleep, nutrition, and exercise, but also about positive emotions.

Finally, if you’re going to be productive, you’ve got to maintain focus. This isn’t easy in the modern era. Information overwhelm, distractions, and interruptions cause dire consequences in both our health and our productivity.

These facts should get you seriously disciplined about setting challenging goals and keeping your energy and focus on track. But that’s hard work, and often those efforts are derailed by our assumptions that it’s just not possible. Too many people say they can’t set larger goals or maintain energy because their work-life balance would be upended. In fact, the conversation around work-life balance has become so absurd, I’d like to address it specifically before moving on to our habits.

The Work Life Balance Debate

The great mistake most people make is to think of balance in terms of evenly distributed hours. … That’s why I think there’s a better approach to thinking about work-life balance. Instead of trying to balance hours, try to balance happiness or progress in your major life arenas.

The solution is to keep perspective in life by keeping an eye on the quality or progress of the major life arenas. A simple weekly review of what we’re after in the major areas of our life helps us rebalance or at least plan for more balance.

I’ve found that it is useful to organize life into ten distinct categories: health, family, friends, intimate relationship, mission/work, finances, adventure, hobby, spirituality, and emotion. When I’m working with clients, I often make them rate their happiness on a scale of 1 through 10 and also write their goals in each of these ten arenas every Sunday night. Most of them have never done that before. But doesn’t it stand to reason that only from measuring something in the first place can we determine whether it’s in “balance”?

If you aren’t consistently measuring the major arenas of your life, then you couldn’t possibly know what the balance you seek is or is not. … this activity is just a simple check-in, I know, but you’d be surprised how powerful it is.

The other distinction generally missed about work-life balance is the it’s not so much about evenly distributed hours as about feelingsYou’ll always feel out of balance if you’re doing work that you don’t find engaging and meaningful.

Take A – Gasp! – Break

Your brain also needs more downtime than you probably think – to process information, recover, and deal with life so that you can be more productive. That’s why, for optimal productivity, you should not only take longer breaks – claim your vacation time! – but also give yourself intermittent breaks throughout the day.

If you want to feel more energized, creative, and effective at work – and still leave work with enough oomph for the “life” part – the ideal breakpoint is to stop your work and give your mind and body a break every forty-five to sixty minutes.

This means you shouldn’t work longer at any one thing without a mental and physical break for more than an hour tops. A break of just two to five minutes every hour can help you feel much more mentally alert and energized for your work and life overall.

For example, if you’re going to work on e-mail or a presentation for two hours, I recommend you get up from your chair at fifty minutes in, then take a fast stroll around the office, grab some water, come back to your chair, and do a sixty-second transition meditation. … If you want extra credit, also ask the desk trigger question from the previous chapter (on necessity): “Who needs my on my A game right now the most?”

Notice what’s not included during these breaks: checking e-mail, texts, or social media. Checking in is the exact opposite of our goal here: checking out so we can recharge.

Achievers often brush off this advice because they just want to sit and “power through” hours of activity at their computer or in meetings. But that’s exactly why they are feeling so wiped out in their home life and thus report a terrible work-life balance. Remember, hours at home versus at work is not the issue. It’s more about their feelings and overall sense of energy. Powering through is just bad advice. Studies of the world’s top performers in dozens of fields found that they don’t necessarily practice or work longer than others. It’s that they are more effective in those practice sessions or simply have more sessions (not longer ones). Putting in longer hours is almost always the wrong answer if yo wan too reach balance, happiness, or sustained high performance. It’s counterintuitive, but it is true: By slowing down or taking a break once in a while, you work faster, leaving more time for other areas of life.