Productivity among all the G7 countries has deteriorated since the recession, but according to the ONS Britain was hit the hardest – and it’s still struggling to catch up. Understandably, its poor performance has been a source of consternation to policymakers. But the problem is that nobody really knows why the UK has done so badly at improving output per hour, which makes it tough to fix.
Whatever the reasoning behind the nation’s current state, some believe longer business hours – and indeed working harder – is the best method to increasing the Britain’s productivity once more. But is that truly the answer to our woes? As it stands, more and more of us already find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a sustainable pace. As such, many look for hacks in order to afford more time and concentration, however, the simple fact is that there’s not one single way to be productive.
We’ve seen it all, with advice spanning around eating better and sleeping more, and while they they may work, we figured we’d present you with some, well, controversial advice.
(1) Become the hulk – one TED talker really said that – and conquer your fears
Brené Brown once gave a TED talk called “The Power of Vulnerability” – she’s not the one that mentioned the Hulk. While she may have first started talking about her fear of giving that very speech, her main message was that she was able to separate her fear from her abilities and didn’t let hesitation get the best of her.
Similarly, productivity guru Tim Farris maintained in a TED talk that by smashing fear, you could learn anything – and in so doing boost your own productivity. He said: “I want everyone to feel like the Incredible Hulk and do some smashing.”
He explained that his knowledge of productivity grew in large part due to studying Parkinson’s Law, which claims “the perceived complexity of a task will expand to fill the time you allot it”. It means that if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task, then, psychologically speaking, the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill a week. And while it may not fill the extra time with more work, you’ll gain extra stress and tension about having to get it done. This means stepping out of your comfort zone, and facing your fears is perhaps the best way to overcome them.
Shoma Morita, a Japanese psychiatrist also once claimed the key was to first give up and attempt it again: “Is it accurate to assume that we must ‘overcome’ fear to jump off the high dive at the pool, or increase our confidence before we ask someone out for a date? If it was, most of us would still be waiting to do these things.”
As such, instead of trying to get motivated, embrace your fear, the negativity and dreading of doing the next task ahead.
(2) Do a little procrastinating
When the pressure from work hits it’s important to find time to do nothing at all. The purpose of doing nothing is to put your mind at rest, helping you to think clearer and be more efficient. It gives you the time you need to catch up with events and comprehend to what’s really going on.
Let’s face it, creativity runs out pretty quickly and at some point throughout the day exhaustion will catch up with you. This lack of creativity leaves you nothing to work with and you’ll end up pushing yourself too hard only to cause more damage. So when is it the best time to do nothing? According to author James Altucher, you should avoid doing anything when you are angry, anxious or tired because that’s when you are more likely to act on impulse and make mistakes.
This was highlighted by Nassim Taleb in his book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder,” in which he said through procrastination you could see what’s really important.
And what do we do while procrastinating? Watch cat clips on YouTube apparently – but oddly enough this act too boosts productivity. Jessica Myrick of Indiana University’s Media School claimed even if people watched cat videos to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off actually helped them take on tough tasks afterward. In other words, watching cat videos could make you a force to be reckoned with in the office – and it’s all because watching cats fall, chase things, or get humiliated by being dressed in shark suits, make us happy.
(3) Cut back on your working hours
Working overtime doesn’t mean that you are being more productive, it merely means that you are working more hours. In his book “Your Brain at Work”, author David Rock said the average office worker is interrupted every three minutes, and recovering from this disconnect is costly. In fact, it takes us an average of 23 minutes to fully return to a task after an interruption. That being said, it comes as no surprise then that our brains aren’t wired to concentrate intensely for eight hours straight.
As such, economists have suspected for some time that longer work hours could eat into productivity. John Hicks, a British economist, suggested that “probably it has never entered the heads of most employers that hours could be shortened and output maintained.” He reasoned that with longer hours, output per hour would fall as by working overtime meant quickly losing energy.
The research of John Pencavel from Stanford University has also linked longer hours with absenteeism and employee turnover. And adding to the cycle of overwork is the fact that employees are trading sleep for work, which in turn is a productivity killer.
This was further echoed in Tony Schwartz’ book “The Power of Full Engagement”, where he said: “You should learn how to manage your energy, not your time.”
Read on to find out how learning to draw toast could increase your productivity.
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