way of workingMindfulness has been all the rage in recent years. Numerous leaders have come out to praise the benefits of ‘being present‘. But are you aware of your current way of working really hindering your performance?

In the book review for ‘Happier’, I’ve shared how Tal Ben-Shahar advises using an hourly chime to interrupt your day. So that you can ask yourself whether or not you are still focussed on your priorities. It’s a good idea, but one I find hard to maintain, especially in open plan offices or with client meetings.

Ask yourself a question

In his book “Triggers: Creating behaviour that lasts – becoming the person you want to be“, leading executive coach & management guru Marshall Goldsmith shares that he too has a list of questions he asks himself. Apparently his list has now grown to 29 questions (things like “Have I done my best to exercise/set goals/have positive interactions with others?”). He asks these of himself daily, to disturb his routine & check-in, so as to ensure he is doing what matters most to him.

So, if you were going to tackle just 2 or 3 things that currently hinder your best performance at work, what would they be?

When I asked myself that, 3 things sprung to mind:

  • eMail & Social Media alerts (i.e. mastering distractions);
  • the lethargy that corporate office spaces can induce;
  • working for too many hours straight.

Can you master Digital Distraction?

To achieve the first, try turning off your phone & laptop alerts/notifications. I know that sounds like suggesting detox these days, but the benefits of no interruptions can be tremendous. If you haven’t tried it and are recognising that your ‘multi-tasking’ might actually be counter productive, I challenge you try it next time you have an important task to complete.

Try turning off your smartphone & possibly disconnecting from wifi/network, so no alerts will interrupt your focus on the task at hand. How much more did you get done? Did you find an uninterrupted time like that also made you more creative?

If you did identify with that greater spark of creativity, you might also be interested in some recent research sponsored by Land Rover. In that survey, organisational psychologist Sir Cary Cooper asked 900 leaders in UK, USA & China about thinking creatively.

Is your office a barrier?

Interesting, the results reveal that the office is where most of those leaders feel least creative. When asked: ‘Where are you at your most creative & have your best ideas?’ Only 3% cited the office, whereas 48% said home & 18% ‘on the move’. This tallies with the environmental factors they identified as needed for creative thought:

  • Comfortable seating
  • Absence of noise
  • Natural lighting

My own journey, from 25 years in corporate offices, to leading my own business ‘on the move’, at home & in various other comfortable locations, confirms this. It has been so much easier to have  the creative ideas needed for blogging, product development, speaking & coaching sessions whilst in non-office environments.

Should you work fewer hours?

One final thought, comes from a report published by the OECD. It should make sobering reading for all of you who are climbing the corporate ladder in your insight career by working long hours. Analysing the hours worked and the productivity per capita of OECD member states between 1990-2012, it suggests you should work fewer hours.

The numbers appear to show a clear pattern, that the fewer hours a country spends working, the more productive it is. The UK are 7th amongst the G7 (& 17th in the G20) with regards to productivity, but also have the longest average working hours. Meanwhile Germany tops the table. It has the lowest average working hours (35 hour week) & is also the most productive per capita.

Personally, I’m not surprised by these results. Just like the importance of sleep, sufficient rest & time outside of the office focussed on the other priorities in your life can definitely sharpen your thinking & raise your motivation.

So, what do you plan to do? Will you work fewer hours, turn off your phone & go out of the office to think?

Try it. Changing your way of working might just surprise you…