Archive for ◊ December, 2016 ◊

Author:
• Friday, December 09th, 2016

Is it Time to Close Down the Open Plan Office
Think about this: Distractions take up 28% of our day.

Someone once thought it was a good idea, but open plan offices are killing our productivity.

Research shows that we get distracted every 11 minutes. That can include someone directly interrupting you, or the loud-talker four desks over that won’t keep it down. Even worse, once we are interrupted, it takes a staggering 25 minutes, on average, to get back on track.

The concept of increased collaboration by removing the office walls is great in theory, but when we need people to be more productive than ever before, why would we give them an environment full of distractions?

In my workshops, a constant theme is that people are regularly getting into the office early (before anyone else is there) or staying later (when no one else is there) in order to get some productive work time in. This tells us one thing: we are more productive when we’re not interrupted!

In order to thrive in these chaotic workplaces, we need some personal and organisational strategies to maximise productivity, without leaving collaboration behind.

Here’s what I suggest:

1) Acknowledge the Problem

Distractions are a real problem. If we are getting distracted every 11 minutes, and it takes us 25 minutes to get back on track, then how much work are we actually getting done? We need to acknowledge that collaboration is great, but we also need periods of time where we can actually get the important stuff done during the day.

2) Develop Team Strategies

Sit down with your team and work out some strategies to make this happen. Maybe it’s that there are periods during the day that are free from internal email, meetings or interruptions. Or maybe you set up a ‘signal’ that people are working at full intensity – maybe people have a sign on their desk or they have their headphone in.

3) Develop Personal Strategies

Our willingness to be distracted is increasing daily. We feel compelled to response to every email ping or social media blip. Start implementing periods of focussed attention in your day. Maybe start small and practice ignoring distractions for 20-30 minutes and then increase from there.

Author:
• Tuesday, December 06th, 2016

Self-Control is Limited
Ever tried to turn over a new leaf? Ever started a health kick, or made a conscious effort to be more productive at work, and then been unable to make the habits stick? maybe you’re doing too much.

Changing behaviours takes self control. And self control is a limited resource. The more we use it, the more we run out of it.

Take some typical self-control research:

Two groups of people watched emotional movies for one hour. One group had to exert extreme self-control – they had to watch the movie with no reactions whatsoever. Complete poker face. The second group didn’t have to exhibit any self-control at all. They could cry, wince, scream or yell at the movie screen.

After watching the movie, the two groups ran on a treadmill at a set effort.

What do you think happened?

The extreme self-control group gave up pretty quickly. They depleted all their self-control while watching the movie – trying not to react, trying not to move. Fighting all their instincts to act out on their emotional reactions. But the group that didn’t exhibit any self-control during the movie, pushed through and ran for a lot longer. Because they hadn’t used any self-control while watching the movie, they were able to use it to keep running and not give up.

The same phenomenon happens to us when we are trying to change too many behaviours at once. If I use all my self-control resisting bad food during the day, chances are that I won’t have any left to make myself go to the gym after work. If I use all my self-control avoiding procrastination and paying attention in meetings, then I might have less left in the afternoon to avoid distractions.

Self-control is like a skill or a muscle. The more we use it, the better we get at it. But if we use it too much at once, it gets depleted. Instead of committing to too many things, try to change one thing at a time. Once this becomes a habit, then add another behaviour and then another.

Author:
• Thursday, December 01st, 2016

Fear of Taking Annual Leave

Who would have thought that Australians would feel so guilty taking annual leave? The Princess Cruises National Relaxation Survey discovered that almost two thirds of workers are actually scared of taking time off.

A big part of this is ‘letting the team down,’ with a quarter of workers saying it’s more stressful to ask for a holiday than a payrise. But equally, people are worried about negative consequences, like coming back to find they have been replaced, or having their ‘fill in’ discover flaws in their work. The bad news is that with no break from the stress of work, our brains may actually start to shrink. This leads to many potential problems and can only be reversed with some relaxing time away from a stressful environment.

Even moderate levels of work stress, over a long time, affect our ability to think and perform at our best and can actually start to make some areas of our brain deteriorate. Fortunately, rest helps the brain ‘grow back’ to normal function. How much rest do we need? Coincidentally, it takes four weeks for some brain regions to grow back to normal size. If you haven’t taken four weeks holiday in a while, now could be a good time to start.

In a study of medical students who crammed for three weeks before final exams, it was shown that their cortex (the part of the brain that learns, controls behaviour and helps us to think critically) actually began to shrink. A smaller cortex means less ability to do all the things that make you valuable in work and life and help you achieve your goals.

The student’s brains eventually returned to normal size, but only after four weeks of rest. While some long weekends and a few short breaks here and there help us to recharge in the short term, our long-term brain health and our ability to perform requires us to have some longer breaks as well.

Here are some tips for making this more effective:

1)    Get away

If possible, get away. Away from work and away from home. This makes sure that there is no feeling of ‘oh, I really should be doing x’ around the home or home office

2)    Turn off the office

Set up your auto-responder and divert your phone. You might still see your email on your smart phone, but if you’ve set up an auto-reply, then you set the expectation for people that you won’t be getting replying until you are back from holidays.

3)    Spend time slowing down

Don’t go flat out every day on your holiday. Trying to cram things into your holiday can sometimes be as stressful as cramming them into your work day. Make sure you take time every day to stop and slow down. Maybe a long walk on the beach, or an hour reading a book – anything that takes your mind of anything to do with stress.