5 Tips for Working Smarter
First off, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year! The start of a new year always provides us with a mental clean slate—a chance to change or improve things that aren’t working for us or could be working better. Following on that energy and opportunity, I’m introducing a new monthly series to get this year off to a productive and positive start: 5 Tips for Working Smarter. Each month from now through May, I’ll share a new tip for working smarter to achieve your goals.
This month is Tip #1: Establish Rituals for High Effectiveness.
My clients often complain about a “lack of margin”—about being stressed out. When we sit down together and examine their schedules, usually we discover that they have no shut off valve on their work. At all hours on weeknights and all weekend they are answering emails and catching up on projects. This might look like productivity, but it actually creates the opposite effect: burn out.
In reality, the most highly effective people have—and uphold—key rituals in the most important areas of their lives, both personal and professional. According to sports psychologist and time and energy management expert Dr. Jim Loehr and co-author Tony Schwartz in The Power of Full Engagement, having the right rituals helps people achieve and stay balanced. Dr. Loehr and Schwartz emphasize the importance of renewal—taking the time to replenish our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies—so that we can perform at our peak, with maximum focus and clarity.
Establishing meaningful rituals is unique to each of us. For example, when my daughter was a child I would stop my work for half an hour when she got home from school and we would have “tea time”—we would connect, she would share about her day, her struggles and victories. We both still treasure those memories, and our “tea time” continues spontaneously today even though she is all grown up, living in Chicago. We built a strong bond by sharing this ritual together, and my work never suffered for those lost thirty minutes.
Many effective leaders have similar rituals with their direct reports, typically setting aside half an hour a month for one-on-ones with each of them. During this time, they focus exclusively on addressing an employee’s developmental goals. Perhaps an employee wants to improve her presentation skills. In your monthly session, you can connect with her about this goal: What actions have you taken this month to further that goal (i.e. read a book, went to a Toastmasters group)? What are you learning? How are you applying it to your work? These sessions also provide an opportunity to discover how the employee is feeling about her job, how she’s dealing with pressures, where she feels she is excelling or falling short. An empathetic leader asks, How are YOU doing?—and then listens.
Here are some rituals you may consider making time for in order to improve your effectiveness:
Weekly planning (a much-needed and often neglected ritual)
Time to Reflect
Turn off your smartphone at a certain time each evening
Family game night
Get more sleep
What other rituals would you establish to help you recharge, stay balanced, and work productively?