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?
In the early 1990s, General Mills ran a brilliant campaign for their new cereal, Grapenuts. Knowing that getting someone to change their breakfast routine can be tricky, they knew they had to convince people to give it a try for more than just one day. So they encouraged brave breakfast eaters to commit to an entire week of eating Grapenuts and then evaluating whether the cereal gave them the energy they were promised.
When it comes to making changes in the workplace, we recommend the “Grapenuts trial”: try it for a week - or better yet, a month - and see what happens. A few days of outcome-focused work won’t be enough to rewire the way you approach your workday, but if stick with it, we promise you’ll find yourself more productive, less stressed, and able to dedicate more time to things that matter like your family, friends, causes and hobbies.
And what better time to give outcome-focused work a try than December, when most employees start to check out and focus on celebrating the holiday season?
Here’s how to give outcome-focused work a try for yourself and your team this month:
Identify what you need to achieve each week - these are your outcomes. Write them down so you can refer to them when you’re feeling unfocused or get distracted.
Start each day working toward your identified outcomes, committing to focus only on what you need to achieve that day.
When you’ve achieved your objectives for the day, stop working. Yes, really! Turn off your computer and silence those work email notifications on your phone. Don’t hang around the office or surf mindlessly until 5:00. Give yourself permission to enjoy the hours you reclaimed in your day through focus and hustle.
It sounds like an easy formula, but anyone who has worked in a time-focused workplace knows it takes some heavy lifting to change the culture of overwork. By giving yourself and your team permission to try something new this month, you can take the pressure off knowing that if it doesn’t work, you can go back to clocking hours in January.
December is the perfect month to give your team a little extra space. They might surprise you by accomplishing far more than ever before!