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Work Less and Be More Productive? Find Out How

Do you work frantically all day long before  immersing yourself in back-to-back afternoon meetings, after eating lunch at your desk?  Are you always behind on emails and find yourself responding  in the evenings and weekends?  Do you always feel harried and exhausted?

In a recent article in the  NY Times, Tony Schwartz cites research that indicates how strategic renewal  – daytime workouts, afternoon naps, longer sleeping hours, more time away from the office, and longer and more frequent vacations,  can lead to greater productivity, job performance and health.  But isn’t this contrary to many workplace cultures that view time at the office, not to mention evening and weekend work, as  signs of dedicated, productive employees?

Energy is finite, but unlike time, it is renewable.  We can’t add more hours to the day, but we can find ways to increase our energy levels to be more productive.

 The Research on Sleep Deprivation

One study of 400 employees published last year found that sleeping less that six hours per night  was the best predictor of job burnout.  A recent Harvard study found that sleep deprivation costs US companies $63.2B  a year in lost productivity.  A Stanford researcher found that when she got basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, free-throw and three-point shooting increased nine percent. Research has also demonstrated that air traffic controllers performed better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time if they were given a 40 minute nap time and slept an average of 19 minutes.  And longer naps have an even greater positive e impact that shorter naps.

Vacations

In 2006 Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees  and found that performance ratings by supervisors increased by eight percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation taken by an employee.  But when we are under pressure, we take fewer and shorter vacations, which is also contraindicated if we look at this research.

90 Minute Cycles

Researchers have also discovered that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into fatigue about every 90 minutes.  Our bodies give us the message that we need to take a break, but alas, we feel we  can’t.  So much to do, so little time!  Instead we get another cup of coffee, or as I just did , reach for more dark chocolate.  Caffeine, sugar and adrenaline keep most of us going and result in a cycle that allows for little rest and recovery time.  And this leads to burnout.

What Can We Do?

Speaking with your supervisors about what you need to perform at your best is a start.  How can you adjust your work schedules for more flexibility?  telecommuting two or three days a week can help. It saves the time and stress of  commuting so more time is spent being productive.  Employers who offer workout facilities, or who allow employees to leave the office to go to nearby gyms can experience the advantage of endorphins at work.  Meditation rooms and lounge facilities where people can rest or nap may also help.  And knowing what you need to do well is critical first step.  Experiment and pay attention.  You are unique.

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How Happy Are You?

On the radio this morning  I listened to a program that talked about how we measure happiness.  The reporter suggested that perhaps researchers will come up with a happiness measure, and we will hear it in the same conversation that we hear the unemployment rate – now 7.8 %.  Here in the US  it seems to me that  how happy we are in our jobs dramatically affects how happy we are with our lives in general.

So I ask you today, how happy are you with what you do and where you do it?  What’s missing and what works?  How much does the day itself reflect or affect your happiness?  Today is Friday, TGIF.  I sense that many people are happy today.

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

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Employers Added 157,000 jobs in January

American employers added 157,000 jobs in January compared with a revised 196,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported on Friday. The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent.

The industries adding jobs were the retail, construction, health care and the wholesale trade sector. Decreases  in  government spending, including that for defense, resulted in more loss of jobs in the government sector.

Economists are forecasting job growth of around 170,000 a month for the remainder 2013, comparable to what employers have been adding over the last year.

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Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln

The recent movie “Lincoln”  reminds us of his legacy and remarkable accomplishments.  He saved the Union and abolished slavery.  He kept to his vision despite innumerable setbacks, and  much death and destruction.  Lincoln has been the subject of much admiration and study in leadership circles, and is discussed in a recent article in the NY Times by Nancy Koehn.

1.  Lincoln always looked forward and inspired Americans to a higher  course and a purpose that is larger than themselves.  He listened  to a variety of  people from different spheres of influence and was  present and authentic.  In a country whose focus is on “What’s in it for me”  now, it takes skill to motivate people to a higher purpose.  Companies today have mission statements, but how many people are inspired by them to actions for the greater good?

2. He kept his vision and composure while staying true to his vision and integrity.   There needs to be resilience and persistence to survive  what can  be an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows in a leadership role.  Lincoln had  high emotional intelligence– the ability to manage and control his emotions and to work well with others.  He gathered advice from a wide range of people and included those who were critical of him.  In this way  he showed respect for those who had different opinions. In todays’ culture of instantaneous  communication, what if Lincoln had hit the send button  too quickly on email?  So many of us react instead of responding  after thoughtful consideration as Lincoln demonstrated.

3.  The ability to shift gears when necessary requires flexibility and courage.  After a humiliating retreat at Gettysburg, Lincoln decided to draft the Emancipation Proclamation that declared  freedom for all slaves in the Confederacy. Then  the war became not just a conflict to save the Union, but to save a new Union without slavery.

Lincoln went on to lead the effort for the ratification of 13th Amendment which abolished slavery.  He died just six days after Lee surrendered to Grant to end the war that cost more American lives than any other war  in our history.

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“Women on the Move” Interview Airing this week

I  was recently interviewed by Jennifer Matilsky for her series on “Women on the Move.” The show will air on Saturday from 4:00-4:30 on Newstalk Radio 1160 in Atlanta.  For those of you outside of Atlanta, you can watch on-line NewsTalk 1160 The Talk of the Town  or by downloading the Newstalk 1160 app on your phone.

Please forward this on to any friends, colleagues, or clients .

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Employers Continue to Add Jobs

The Labor Department reported on Friday that American employers added 155,000 jobs in December, continuing the slow pace of growth over the past year.

The biggest gains were in health care, food services, construction and manufacturing, with the latter two probably helped by  the rebuilding in the Northeast  after Hurricane Sandy. Government payrolls fell modestly once again.

The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, the same as the revised rate for  November.

Over the course of 2012, the country added 1.8 million jobs, despite continued job losses in the government sector and anxiety related to the presidential election and scheduled tax increases and spending cuts. Also encouraging is a report by Outplacement Firm Challenger, Gray and Thomas that said the number of job cuts fell 43% from those in November.

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Reach Your Goals in 2013!

When it comes to career success, direction and focus are crucial. But beyond direction, how effective is it to have goals?

Requirements for Effective Goal-Setting

 Much has been researched and written about the effectiveness of goal setting.

The findings say:

Difficult goals lead to higher performance than easy goals.

  • Difficult goals lead to higher performance than “do your best” goals.
  • Setting specific goals results in more precise performance than setting “do your best” goals.

Just having the goal is not enough.  You must develop a strategy to make it happen.  What are the activities you need to perform every day?  Plan those activities, but also stay alert and open to new ways to achieve your goals as they present themselves.

There are three critical requirements that dictate how well goal setting will work:

Commitment to your goals.

  • Periodically reviewing where you stand regarding goal achievement (getting feedback).
  • Belief that you can achieve your goals (self-confidence and self-efficacy).

You need to genuinely desire the goals you set.  If you don’t like your job and don’t want to be there, then it is difficult to be committed.  It’s also crucial that you believe that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Stress and Goal Setting

 Goals create striving which results in more stress.  So how do you deal with this stress?

Since I am notoriously poor at pacing myself, I created a structure to help me with this process.  My plan includes eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, but also not scheduling clients on Fridays, if at all possible. I don’t work past 8 p.m.  I plan vacations and weekends away, and schedule social events with friends at least once per week. Part of my stress management program also involves not over-booking myself with social activities so that I have time to retreat for rest and recuperation.

Deepak Chopra, in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, says that if we want to have a successful career, we should first center ourselves and then release our intentions (our career goals) to the universe.  We should not be attached to the way these goals develop, or to the exact outcome, but leave the details to the universe.  We can get the same results through effort and trying, he says, but the result is stress, which can lead to heart attacks and other physical illnesses.

Sometimes we focus more on our unhappiness with our present situation, than on what we want to achieve. Chopra says that we should accept where we are now, be fully present in the moment and concentrate on our deepest intentions (goals).

Goals should be difficult, but achievable with persistent effort. Goals that are too extreme, such as doubling your income in one year, can only discourage you.  Goals work because you persist and focus your efforts in a specific direction .Without that direction, we can find ourselves floating through our lives, more at the mercy of outside forces that are not devoted to our welfare or success.  But we can manage our goals in a way that does not create undo stress by not being attached to the exact way they are achieved.

Conclusion

 In my business I set performance goals for myself every year. I also set goals for relationships, finances, home, physical and mental health, as well as spiritual development.  I can attest to the fact that the more specific the goal, and the more frequently I review that goal and focus on it, the more likely I am to meet that goal.   It helps to write down your goals, read through them periodically, visualize them and keep a picture journal that represents the achievement of those goals. But it also helps to listen to the feedback from the universe, and make adjustments to those goals when necessary. We should have a career plan, but be flexible with how it unfolds.

As I approached graduation from college many, many years ago, I wrote a poem about goal setting which I titled, “My Brook and Me.”

I remember the brook

streaming through the woods;

spending hours around it,

building forts, wiping the mud off me with skunk cabbage.

I remember the brook on sunny days;

Water babbling over stones and rocks, pieces of wood;

making the water ripple the way it did.

I wondered what happened to the brook

traveling away from my yard.

I had a goal for my brook

to flow to the ocean…but then what?

I see goals for myself

  thwarted, rearranged, fulfilled.

But the goal for my brook;

What happened to it?

Having set goals the brook and I

build toward them.

The brook unable to know…

about a pipe in the ground, a seeping marsh, a dam.

Myself not knowing the course I will follow.

Knowing what I want,

yet finding it hard to grasp.

I remember years of competition, of struggle, of acceptance.

Then discovering what is real, important;

myself, my friends, expression;

a soft kitten purring on my lap;

peace.

Being more than a doctor, a lawyer.

Knowing comfort, relaxation.

Being myself.

Approaching the completion of one goal,

I set new ones.

But fulfilling them means going away, sorrow.

Like the brook moves on, streams to the river…

the ocean.

Saying goodbye to familiar things,

 friends.

Facing a reoccurrence of similar past memories,

painful.

 I know a word…self-fulfillment.

Being vulnerable, can I take chances?

Being strong, grinding ahead through disappointments.

Being weak, letting go of crippled goals.

Like a brook who misses the river,

finding another happiness.

Being motivated, seeking what I am after,

But not too aggressive.

Being easy, tension-free.

Making it through the insecurity

Like cool water in a brook;

not knowing what will come.

Traveling through the seasons of time.

Molding myself to the environment like the brook

makes its path through nature.

Sliding over any obstacles

 the brook continues over rocks, pieces of wood.

Freezing in the rough, cold spots;

melting in the warm.

Praying for a map free of dams to follow

 in a steady, unchartered progression.

My brook and me.

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