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Get More Done While Working Less

Jul 6, 2008
Technology today makes it possible to easily connect to your work computer from anywhere over the internet. Smart phones make it easy to send and receive email from just about anywhere. And of course, having that cell phone makes it possible to reach, or be reached by, anyone, anytime of day or night.

All this technology should make us more productive, but in many cases it can lead to less productivity. In the old days you went to work for 8-10 hours a day, then went home to rest up for the next day in the trenches. Maybe now and then you took some paperwork home, but you really couldn't do much away from the office. You had time to clear your head, and relax.

Now though, when you head home after a long day you don't rest. You log on, and try to get more work done. This just means the job follows you everywhere, and becomes never-ending. Rather than enjoy time with the kids, or taking a walk, you are always on the job. Even the most exciting work will will become stagnant and wear you down if you do it 24-7.

In the days when you couldn't do much work away from the office you were able to step away from the stresses of work. You could free your mind, and come back with a fresh perspective on things. Sure, you might have work on the mind, but you were able to think instead of do. Often that time away from the office would fire your creative juices, and let you gain perspective on your work and the day ahead. We need that down time to allow us to stay invigorated, and passionate about our work.

A great friend of mine for whom I have the utmost respect as a business owner and all around good man, is obsessed with his work. He is also obsessed by technology that keeps him in constant touch with work. A few weeks ago I was in his car with him on the Mass Turnpike doing 70 MPH, and he was reading his emails while driving. An employee of his was in the back seat, and kept saying in a slightly frightened tone, "road... watch the road." That's an obsession that has become dangerous to the drivers of New England, and drivers here are already dangerous enough.

I sent an email to several people involved in a project I was working on one afternoon recently. The first one to respond, and respond within 90 seconds, was my good friend the business owner. The thing is, he was on vacation with his wife in St. Barts. My buddy should have been sipping drinks on the beach, and enjoying his time away from work. Instead, he jumped on an email immediately. The people who were actually in the office took at least 10-15 minutes to respond to my email.

My friend will tell you he needs to always be working because he has a business to run. Fair enough, but he is always late, always behind on work, and so easily distracted by emails and minor details he seems to always be in a state of panic. That is not productive, it is destructive. He's a great person with a great wife and gorgeous children. I fear he is missing out on the fruits of his labor. What's the point of it all if you don't take time to enjoy life?

I have perspective on this because I used to be the same way. When I got home from work I'd go right back to it by connecting to my office computer. To me, this was what I thought I had to do to be more valuable to the company, to get ahead, to get noticed as a hard worker. It sounds cliche, but hard work doesn't necessarily mean good work. Spending all your waking hours banging away at work will often do more harm than good. If you can't get away from your work, you will grow to hate it. I did.

When I got to the office in the morning I was already worn out because it seemed like I never got away from work. The work I once really enjoyed became a drag. I lost my focus because I never stepped away to take an objective look at what I was doing.

When it got to the point where I felt I just wanted to quit altogether I decided I would no longer work at home. The initial attitude was to say, "forget this job, I'm not going to drive myself nuts with this anymore." I even stopped jumping on emails the second they hit my in box. I only checked email once every two hours. After a few days I found myself enjoying work again. I found that I was getting more done.

The shocker was no one noticed I changed my habits. No client or colleague fell apart because I didn't answer an email within 30 seconds. In fact, when particular clients were told they would be serviced from a different office most of the clients I dealt with requested that they still be allowed to deal with me. The reason was because they knew I always came through for them, and they felt the level of service they got from me was the best in the business.

This may sound like me tooting my own horn, but what I had found was a new way of getting more done in a workplace that had become cluttered with emails, phone calls, paperwork, data work, etc. It was not so much brilliance on my part, but an initial decision to give up. I was on the verge of quitting the place, so I stopped obsessing. Habit change that had been born out of frustration and stress became the best thing I could have done for myself professionally. My ability to focus, and provide real value to the business was greatly enhanced.

All of a sudden the quality of my work was even greater, and management took notice. I got a raise, and was given more responsibility over larger clients. This was the beginning of my maverick thinking mantra. I realized that to achieve greater results you often have to go against the grain.

The added benefit is a better life overall. When you can leave work at work you find your time away from the office so much more enjoyable. When you can just sit back and relax with the family, or listen your favorite tunes you just become a happier person. You can actually enjoy all the things you work for. That makes you appreciate your work even more.
About the Author
Ted Hebert is a writer and Maverick Thinker who works with business of all sizes to grow their business. Contact Ted at ted@atunga.com or visit www.Atunga.com.
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