The last couple of years have changed our lives on all fronts, at work and at home in sometimes unimaginable ways. It has changed the way we approach our work and personal lives, and has opened up opportunities for some. Some fortunate workers now have flexibility to balance their home and work lives in ways not previously possible. Positives have included the saving of commuting time which can now be re-focused into other work areas. However there are some not so wonderful outcomes for our workforce, including the lack of social interaction at work, feeling isolated, and for some the pressure to increase productivity when on a personal level, we have perhaps discovered the joys of staying at home a bit more, developed new hobbies, learned new languages, or even engaging our entrepreneurial streak starting new businesses.
Underlying all of this is the danger of our ongoing quest to “keep busy”, and to “do more”. Many of us end up feeling stressed at not being able to do things the way we used to, and feel the need to fill our time with “value-adding activity”. We risk creating an environment for burnout in our workplaces which could flow through to our personal lives. The demarcation point between our business and personal lives has become increasingly muddy.
How can we create a balance between healthy productivity and personal well- being?
Why are we under so much pressure to be “Busy”?
The introduction of technology over the last few decades has changed the pace of business. What used to be a typed memo, written by the sender, typed by the typist, signed then sent via snail mail, can be now be rattled off in an email in a minute, with the response possibly coming a minute later.
We have access to information at the click of a mouse button, whereas we used to have to troll through endless tomes at the library. On a daily basis we are bombarded with articles about business celebrities such as Elon Musk having a norm of 80 to 90 hours as a normal working week. Podcasts, social media posts extol the virtues of maximizing our productive time, with endless tools and “how to’s” to help us get there. Who hasn’t questioned their own self esteem when we see the over achievers on social media running marathons, climbing mountains and having wholesome holidays with their families? We have become experts in “multi-tasking” – using driving time to make phone calls, listening to podcasts while exercising, watching educational tutorials on our laptops on a so-called work break.
If we can’t meet these unrealistic expectations of ourselves to be productive, how are we increasing our risk of burnout in the office, but also, sadly in our personal lives?
Productivity is not the only measure of success
Productivity of itself is not a bad thing, but if not handled carefully, can result in some negative outcomes and risks to our health. Used wisely, productivity allows us to produce more work in a less amount of time, providing opportunities to engage in some other value adding activities. This is a good thing. But if we start applying this business logic to our personal lives, do we always need to be more productive in our personal lives and supposed down time?
The big question we need to ask ourselves is “why do we want to be more productive”. Different situations can require different outcomes. Sometimes it is not what we need to achieve; it is how we go about achieving it.
Boredom is not a bad word
Newsflash – it is ok to do nothing sometimes. Boredom can trigger our brains to imagine and be creative by considering the unfamiliar and to explore where we may not have been before.
Handling boredom is an important skill, as it helps us to re-focus and self regulate. When we are now so used to instant gratification and everything happening so quickly, it is a good lesson to take a moment, develop better self-control, and regulate our speech, actions and emotions. Ever heard of “sleeping on a problem”?
Productivity is an important quality to encourage in both our business and personal lives, but they must have a clear goal in mind. Putting stress on ourselves to be constantly productive is not a healthy or sustainable practice. Making sure we allow ourselves time to “take a moment” and recuperate is essential in our crazy world. Look after yourselves.