As workweeks stretch 50, 60 or more hours long for many Americans, we’ve got to wonder if these extra hours spent slaving over a desk or chained to our smartphones is actually helping us be more productive. In fact, research tells us that working excessive hours actually makes people less productive, not more.
What if the solution to inefficiency and burnout isn’t simply working less, but working differently? How would your workweek look if your goal wasn’t to clock a certain number of hours, but to achieve specific outcomes and then go home and unplug?
Happy November! We can’t believe 2017 is rapidly coming to a close. On the blog this month we’re talking about burnout: why it happens and how to avoid it. Stay tuned for a special Thanksgiving-themed blog later this month, too!
We’ve all felt it. Exhausted, overwhelmed, depleted... burned out.
In fact, 95 percent of HR leaders reported that employee burnout is sabotaging their workforce.
What is behind such pervasive burnout? Are we simply working too many hours each week, or is the way we work the problem?
Here are some of the reasons why your employees are burning out like a firework.
We admit: our last two blogs have been pretty negative. But knowing that nearly 70% of American workers are tuned out at work, we felt it was important to help employers and managers understand why employees are disengaged and how employee disengagement hurts your business.
Now that we’ve identified the problem, it’s time to turn to solutions. We don’t believe employee disengagement has to be the new norm, so here’s how we can all be part of the solution.
Employee disengagement hurts your organization. From team morale to the bottom line there are emotional and financial costs to having a disengaged workforce.
Last week, we gave you five ways employee disengagement is hurting your organization. That’s the first step to attacking your problem - understanding why it is a problem for you. The next step is to understand why these employees are feeling unmotivated at work. Until you know that you can’t create an effective strategy for re-engaging those employees.
While each team is unique, the fact that so many people (70%) are anywhere from less than enthused about their jobs to outright seeking to sabotage their place of employment, means there are some key trends that can help you diagnose and treat the problem.
Take a look - do you think any of these issues are living beneath the surface at your organization?
Read the five common reasons employees are disengaged at work.
We’ve all heard the staggering statistic: according to Gallup, only 33 percent of all American workers feel engaged at their jobs. That means 67 percent - nearly 7-in-10 - workers in America are somewhat disengaged at work, if not disengaged entirely.
Look around yourself, at your job, or at the next business you walk into. Does your team have engagement issues? What about the team at your doctor’s office or your mechanic shop - where quality work greatly influences your life!
Chances are - your team, and organizations that you care about and need in your life, have an employee engagement problem.
Here are five reasons your employees might be disengaged and why it's hurting your business.
Earlier this month, we talked about setting SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This is a tried-and-true strategy for setting goals that you can achieve and a plan to make them happen.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes setting goals simply isn’t enough for me. What happens when you set SMART goals and find yourself getting frustrated or falling short?
Knowing what you want is one part of the equation towards accomplishing your goals. And systems can be the missing link between goals that remain unattained and those that are achieved or even exceeded.
Read how to implement systems that make achieving your goals painless.
Several years ago, I started doing something a bit unusual: setting my “New Year Resolutions” in September. My birthday is in September, so it feels natural to start *my* new year this month. And September feels like a fresh start for many ways: a transition out of summer, when schedules and routines were relaxed for fun in the sun; back to school (or re-focusing at work); cooler nights and fresh autumn mornings.
In fact, I think you should be setting goals in September regardless of if you set them at the start of the year. This is a great time to reassess your progress for the year and realign how you’re spending your time to ensure you accomplish what is necessary by calendar year’s end. This is especially true at work, where you likely have year-end goals for yourself and your team (and maybe even bonuses contingent on achieving them).
But simply moving your goal-setting to September won’t guarantee you set good goals and achieve them. That’s why I rely on SMART goals - goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely - to help me make a plan for success. Here’s an example. (Click to read more!)
For most of us, Labor Day is the summer finale, knowing that once the holiday has come and gone, fall is upon us and it’s once again time to focus on school and work.
Growing up, we wouldn’t miss the first high school football game of the season on the Friday night of Labor Day weekend. It was also our last chance to get a new outfit for school, new binders or a new lunch bag. Finally, we enjoyed a quiet Monday at home before the big yellow school bus would arrive the next morning like clockwork.
But did you know there’s a greater significance to Labor Day beyond one last chance to savor summer?
Click to read how Labor Day inspires us work hard and live well.
Despite growing evidence and plenty of discussion around how multitasking is not just ineffective but actually bad for your brain, we can’t seem to banish multitasking from our workday. Notifications from multiple devices cascade through our ears, pulling us away from the task we’re trying to focus on. Open tabs in our browsers seem to multiply like rabbits. Suddenly, it seems like the only way we can accomplish anything is to do multiple things at once.
But is multitasking really the problem? As I prepared to write this article, I was pulled away by a phone call, multiple text messages, checking to make sure I responded to an email, and of course a pit stop on Facebook. Psychologists have dubbed this incessant barrage of tasks, necessary or otherwise, that draw us away from what we’re currently doing task switching.
Read how task switching might be derailing your productivity and focus.
For a majority of Americans, August’s arrival means time for vacation. This is the month many organizations quiet down as employees scatter to various destinations (or opt for a restful “staycation” close to home).
It’s important to step away from work for a week or two each year for some real, honest unplugging from your iPhone, email, and any other work. But we can’t expect a week or two of vacation to sustain us throughout the year. We also need to build consistent times of rest into our everyday rhythm.
So while you may be away from the office this month (or even if you work through August, it’s likely a bit quieter than usual), take some time to consider how you can build rest into your life on a regular basis.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started.
We’ve all heard the research: rest is important, and without it, we burn out. We know resting is a good idea (and have learned how burnout wreaks havoc on our bodies and relationships the hard way).
But resting isn’t just a quantity issue - it’s a quality issue, too. If you don’t know what kind of rest truly restores your mind, body, and soul, you may not be experiencing the quality rest you need. It’s time to think about what activities are restful for you, and perhaps more important, what isn’t.
Click to read how to not just rest, but rest well.
If you’ve encountered languages other than the one you grew up with, you’ve likely discovered a word that captures an idea that doesn’t quite translate directly into your own language.
I like it when that happens. It introduces me to a new way of thinking, to a concept I hadn’t considered in the same way.
The ancient Greek language has two different words for time. Chronos refers to the kind of time we measure by the ticking clock. It’s the time we use as we try to meet deadlines, make it to appointments, or go to bed at a decent hour. We cite it in numbers: 8:45 a.m., 4:15 p.m.
Kairos, on the other hand, has a spiritual implication, a sense of significance. It represents time “in the moment,” giving everything into that moment and receiving everything it has to offer. On Kairos time, you are truly present, not rushing toward the next thing.
Which type of time energizes you? Which drains you? And most importantly, which is your default setting?
Click to read more.
Last month, we talked about focus. This month, we’re discussing freedom and how your job impacts your personal and professional freedoms. We wrote about Baseball, Lightning Bugs, and Fireworks - and the freedom to pursue your passions. Now we want to talk about the freedom to focus. Does your workplace limit your freedom to focus, making it more difficult for you to accomplish your objectives and achieve your goals? We’ve been there. Here are some ways you can regain your freedom to focus at work.
Ding! A new email. Ding! An urgent text message. And don’t get me started on the numerous project management software options out there - while they all have good intentions, and can be used to make our work lives much easier, often they become another layer of bureaucracy and a place where good ideas go to die.
And then the phone rings, and you’re 10 minutes late for your next meeting… lather, rinse, repeat.
Research shows that knowledge workers are interrupted a staggering 20 times an hour. That’s why we end up spending almost two-thirds of our day just managing our work, not actually doing it.
Does this describe you? Do you leave work feeling like you accomplished far less than you should in 8, 9, 10 or more hours? It it impossible to even gain a moment’s peace in your office?
If so, you’re not alone. But you’re also not doomed to spend your remaining years at work trying to survive the chaos. Here are three steps to getting your freedom to focus back.
I ran into the mother of one of my son’s pre-school classmates at the end-of-the-school-year picnic. We exchanged the usual chit-chat, and she mentioned she was going to be spending the summer with her daughter full-time. I responded, “Wow! That’s wonderful! Is your boss offering you a leave of absence?”
She responded with what I’ve heard too many times before: “No, I’ve decided to leave. I couldn’t handle being pulled in so many directions anymore. I’ll take the summer off and start looking for a new job in the fall.”
I looked across the park, to a tree where I had shared a conversation with one of my son’s classmates’ fathers not too long ago. This man shared that he had just left the job he loved and “downshifted” into another position, because the new job was more predictable. He had aging parents as well as young children to worry about, and while he had been a rock star at work, he needed a job that gave him space to take care of his family.
If these individuals had made these choices because they actually wanted something new, I’d be all for it. But in both instances, they were exhausted, burned out, and leaving careers they had been committed to and where they were making an impact. There just wasn’t space leftover to be committed to their other priorities, too.
We all have tastes, smells, and sights that signal to us that the long-awaited summer is finally here. For me, it’s baseball, lightening bugs, and fireworks. As a child I attended an annual 4th of July picnic, and seeing friends and neighbors, drinking birch beer (from a keg!), and watching fireworks was the sign summer had arrived.
But when I stop and think about the meaning of the 4th of July, I realize the true weight of the holiday. We proudly sing of the “rockets red glare” at the start of every baseball game, but those rockets weren’t fireworks of celebration - they were real mortars, aimed directly at the heart of American freedom.
As my awareness of our global political climate has grown, I’ve realized that while our country and the things it stands for are far from perfect, our democracy is pretty amazing. Our country rose from the ashes of rebellion to build a society that at its core aims to give everyone a chance at life and liberty. The pursuit of happiness is the icing on the cake. Does this always work in practice? Unfortunately, no. But without the red glare of those rockets, we wouldn’t have the freedom to practice our religion, gather together, and speak our mind.
One of my favorite freedoms is the freedom to pursue our passions, and if we’re really lucky, build a career out of those passions. In a perfect world, work is about more than putting food on the table (though I feel blessed every day to be able to provide for my family). Our world is full of real, serious challenges, and work is an opportunity to face those challenges head on and make the world a little better place.
Read more after the jump.
One of our most frequently asked questions is, “So is anyone else on this shorter workday bandwagon?” And the answer is - yes!
There are several modern and historical examples of people who intentionally structured their workday to reflect shorter, more concentrated hours of effective activity. Research shows that our productivity wanes the longer we’re at work, and in our digital age, we end up spending more time managing our work than actually doing it. (How many emails are in your inbox right now? Too many? That’s what we thought!) That’s why a shorter workday that manages to outcomes instead of time clocked makes the most of your brain power and gives you back the valuable time you’re losing to unproductive tasks.
Read more to learn which famous people worked only four hours a day to achieve success.
Earlier this month, we talked about how meditation is the first step to reducing distractions. You have to be calm inside your brain to face the onslaught of issues you’ll encounter each day.
But in the spirit of continuing our focus on focus, here's another thought: my morning meditation enables me to be the thermostat, not the thermometer. This was important advice given to me by a friend when I had my second child. She said, “your life is getting increasingly complex, which means there will be unexpected issues all the time. You can decide if they control you, or if you control your reaction to them. I’d recommend you choose to be the thermostat, not the thermometer."
Find out how to improve your focus by being a thermostat, not a thermometer.
If time is our most valuable resource, and how we spend our time defines who we are, then why do we waste so much of it? And why, in the age of apps and gadgets, does managing our time seem more difficult?
It’s easy to place the blame on the pull of social media, and it’s true that two-thirds of employees spend time on social media at work. But wasted time at work goes beyond surfing the Internet or chatting about your weekend with coworkers.
We’re wasting time when we spend more of our time managing our work than actually doing it.
Find out how much time the average worker wastes each day and how your team beat the statistics!
Our theme this month is Focus. Join us as we explore ways to improve your focus so you can be as effective as possible!
On the blog this month, we’re focusing on focus. It’s the key ingredient to success for any individual or organization: your ability to pay attention to the most important things and block out the seemingly endless distractions.
If I have learned anything in life, it is to learn from other people’s experience. Life is too short to figure everything out on my own. So when I hear people I admire talking about the importance of their spiritual health, meditation, or gratitude practices, I listen. And when I recognize that so many of them point to just that practice as being the most important ingredient of their success, I really listen.
Click through to learn the number one focus hack of the pros.