flowing motion

Are you doing less by doing too much?

Posted on: March 11, 2009

My schedule does not tell me when to begin but when to stop

I woke up this morning from a half-nightmare.  I was part of a confused discussion, or meeting, evidently out of doors.  Someone thrust a “may pole” into the lawn and asserted: ” It is simple. We all focus.”

I awoke in a fluster thinking, “No, I don’t want to be facing inward looking only at a pole.”

Then, still groggy, I had another thought.  The reason why we have schedules and appointments is not to focus our attention.

We have schedules to tell us when to stop.  Schedules tell us when when it is time to stop work and pay attention to the world.

Some complementary evidence from academia

A man by the name of Boice, has extensively researched the productivity of academics.  Do you know that there is a differential of 7:1 between the best and ordinary academics?

Highly productive academics

  • work early in the morning (before the household gets up) for 1 to 1.5 hours (maximum)
  • work on one project at a time and work at it a little every day
  • work in snatches of about 15 minutes and take mini breaks
  • start before they ready
  • stop.

Of course, then they go into the office and attend to the busy-work of universities and the complementary work of teaching.

In working regularly every day and STOPPING, they achieve 7 times more than people who “binge” work.

Complementary ideas from the theory of happiness

Marcial Losada analysed recordings of business teams making decisions.  The best third regularly

  • had positive to negative ratios in excess of 3:1 (around 5:1)
  • asked questions as much as they advocated solutions
  • and importantly, talked about the outside world as much as they talked about matters inside the company.

Two questions to make sure I am not doing less by doing too much

Time for me review my working day and say how much of my attention each task can have!  When am I going to STOP?

When will I step back from a task and go about other business, attentive to the concerns of the world as they unfold around me?

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3 Responses to "Are you doing less by doing too much?"

Jo,

thank you. A very timely post. Like the reminder about ‘binge working’!

You may wish to trademark the term- it could catch on as a clear way of explaining why current work practices are self defeating.

And with that I am off for the day.

Hi Jo

You have captured a very pressing problem as organisations cut staff and create frenzied working environments.

I think I’ll take half the day off and go to the gym!

Thanks for the tips,

Katherine

@Lily indeed. The 7:1 ratio in productivity is staggering.

@Katherine, yeah, too much busy work!

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