How you can work smarter and achieve more with less effort

Lesetid: 6 minutter

The Tech Workers Burnout

Have you ever heard about the “tech workers burnout?” A study of more than 36,200 tech workers showed that two in five wanted to quit their job due to stress, work overload and a blurry work and homelife balance. In addition to this, 62% of the IT professionals who participated in the study said that they were “physically and mentally drained.” 

On the flip side of this, other studies show that the main reason top achievers are more successful at bringing value and achieving their goals, while in fact working less, is their ability to recognize the core value creating efforts they must accomplish within a day to reach that goal. 

So, why is it that some are so much better at getting things done than others? The answer is often rooted in the ability to – or lack of focus and prioritization. 

Why some struggle to focus at work

A study conducted on 5000 people by Morten T. Hansen, a leadership professor at the University of California, Berkeley, showed that the top reasons people can not focus at work is

    • Scope too extensive (38%)
      This is the case for many of us, where we never seem to reach the end of our todo-list, although this is often rooted in a lack of prioritization and transparency, which luckily we have the power to do something about. 
    • Do-more-management (24%)
      This phenomena is based on leadership who are not fully communicating effectively with their teams. Often this stems from them not having the right technical knowledge to assess tasks correctly, or simply are not involved/aware of the daily tasks of each person. 
    • Deadlines (21%)
      Reaching a specific deadline can be a huge stresser for some, whilst motivating others to achieve their goals faster. The important thing is that the deadline is realistic to each person in the team, and communicated properly along the way. 
    • Other things (17%)

Prioritizing when working home office 

An extra challenge for those who are working from home office is the added disturbances we might experience from simply being at home. 

Studies show that the most common challenges people experience when working from home in terms of distractions, to name a few; 

    • Blurred lines between work and home hours
    • Children/Childcare
    • Lack of suitable space to work 
    • Too frequent snacking 
    • Lack of social interaction 
    • Lack of exercise 

Working more hours does not mean you achieve more 

A common belief is that if we put more working hours in, then we get more done – although this is already proven to be wrong – Economics professor, John Pencavel from Stanford University, found that productivity per hour declines sharply when a person suprasses 50 hour work weeks or more. In fact, after 55 hours, productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours creates no difference whatsoever, meaning that those who worked 70 hours or more, produced no more than those working 55 hours.

So what are some tricks to work less but get more done?

Do less – but do it fully and completely. 

Focusing down on high value tasks and deep diving into those tasks at hand is the key focus of those who achieve more and work less. This includes completing proper studies and getting as much information you need to reach a full understanding of the wishes and needs of the client/project, and deliver to the best of your absolute abilities. 

So how do we know which tasks to prioritize?

How can we prioritize 

This depends on whether you are free to prioritize individually or whether you do this together in a team. However the process of prioritizing is built on the same principles. Some ways to focus: 

    • Tasks that develop skills
      You might not think that taking 2 hours out of your day to sharpen your knowledge about something is of value or use to anyone, but in fact it might save you hundreds of hours in the long run. Consider the skills each activity helps you achieve, and make sure to prioritize whatever is most aligned with your job or career path as a whole.
    • Tasks that develop relationships
      Having endless meetings everyday is a huge distraction for a lot of us, and a huge contributor to what breaks up our concentration. However, we need to make sure that we build relationships, because they are extremely important for how we feel and also how we grow both personally and professionally. Of course effective communication within a team is imperative to prioritize correctly. The key is to focus on the meetings and activities that build the right relationships for you, and that the substance in those meetings are of value to solving tasks. The next thing is set off the right time to have those interactions and show up fully.
    • Are there any ToDos that make the rest easier to do?
      If you look at your Todo list, you might find that you have written them down as you remembered them. But is there any of these tasks that if achieved, makes the other tasks seem either of less importance, or easier to achieve? Those tend to be good tasks to start off with, and who knows, you might even find that the other ones were not important enough to even complete ones that one is achieved.  
    • Tasks that create the most value
      What efforts allow you to create value and what do you spend time on daily that brings little to no value to your end goal? Clean away time-wasting tasks that have proven to bring no value, and focus on those who allow yourself or your company to achieve the set goals. 

Stop prioritizing easy

What does this mean? A lot of us start by doing the easy things first. And ofcourse, having some nice and easy tasks to kick off the day with your morning coffee might not be wrong for you. But if you find yourself guilty of never getting important things done, then you might need to start your week at the opposite end. So what does that look like? One way might be prioritizing progress instead, focusing on completing a task that would create real movement forward. 

Change how you work 

If you are not achieving your daily tasks, switch up how you work and see if that makes a difference. After all, we have all heard countless times that you can’t do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

Some things you might be able to influence is; 

    • The hours you work 
    • Your deliveries and ETAs 
    • The way a task is solved 
    • The expectations of your team 

The art of saying no to your boss 

24% of the participants in Morten T. Hansen’s study explained that bad management, or lack of understanding of one’s role from the leadership was a big reason they could not focus on achieving their daily tasks. This is not something that might seem easy to fix from the floor up, but transparency is key to create a situation for yourself where you can achieve more and work less with confidence. So if you find yourself in this situation then you have to learn to say no to your boss, or simply explain why you believe this new task should not be prioritized over what you are focusing on, and let it be up for discussion. 

Learn to say no to everyone

It’s not only the management that can steal away our focus, and unfortunately we are programmed to be aware of sudden noises and movements, like a notification or message popping up on our screen. 

Setting off time to be available might be a great solution to this. Is it possible to let people know when they can contact you, or when you are going to get back to them? Slack, for one, has the functions allowing you to schedule in pre-written messages letting people know that you are currently working on something but will get back to them after 15:00 for example. Same goes for most other communication platforms.

Prioritize Breaks and focus on your health

All though a lot of us will not like to admit it we are not computer super heroes who can live on 30 min downtime a day and a chocolate bar. Even if this might be effective in short periods perhaps, it always leads to fatigue or lack of mental bandwidth in the long run. 

It is very important that we schedule in some time for building up our physical and mental energy throughout the day – no matter what that might look like for you. A 30 min. run at noon, or a 15 minute meditation before the morning meetings, a 20 min. nap on the sofa, whatever it might be, prioritize your health – also when at work. It really does not help anyone if we need to leave a project due to being burned out or sick constantly.

So if you want to achieve more, work less, and hopefully avoid the tech workers burnout, look at your priorities and start focusing down on those key activities that bring value to you and those you work with!

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