Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Slow Down to Speed Up

            Are you running like that rat in the wheel; up early, working late, vacationing with your tablet, and taking calls whizzing down the road? The labor movement fought hard for the 40-hour week. Do you scoff at working only 40 hours? When was the last time you slept 7 - 8 hours for weeks at a time?

            Everywhere I looked last week someone addressed the need to slow down. Bruce Turkel wrote a great blog; NPR's TED Radio Hour featured several presentations too. Wha's up?

            People are questioning the efficacy of our insane pace. Hundreds of studies over 50 years show these results; humans are designed to sleep 7 - 8 hours every night or we become sleep deprived. When we run on 5-6 hours for months, our health suffers, and more importantly for our productivity-obsessed business world, our efficiency plummets. We are not as mentally astute as we think; we make mistakes, have accidents, and destroy our mental capacity. The bad news? We cannot make up lost sleep. We sleep in, but that's net gain.

            Here's some more bad scientific news; humans are designed to work 35 - 40 hours over a 7-day period. 50 years of data show a sad trajectory; once we work 9 or 10 hours a day, several days, our efficiency drops like a stone. Keep it up for weeks and we have to work 50 hours to do what we did in 40. The results on productivity, mistakes, mental keenness, and capacity mirror sleep deprivation. Depending on your health, age, physical and mental fitness, when you experience the toll varies. Even the heartiest lose productivity within weeks.

            Combine not-enough sleep with too-many work hours and you burnout. Period.

            Another scary reality: Large companies have Employee Assistance programs. If you're addicted to alcohol or drugs, they intervene and you can get treatment for your disease. Companies understand the destructive power of addiction. What about addiction to work? A joke, right? When they discover you're a workaholic, they rejoice and say silently, "We've got a live one!" and publically, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person!"

            I write about this because, "My name is Rebecca and I'm a workaholic." I've taken the first step and admitted it. I first realized this 20 years ago while dining with friends in Toronto. "Rebecca, you never talk about anything except work anymore." I was gob smacked. They were right.

My Simple Formula to Treat Work Addiction (most days):

·         Admit you have a problem.
·         Get 7-8 hours sleep.
·         Eat nutritiously.
·         Exercise.
·         Practice mindfulness.
·         FOCUS on important work only for an effective 35-hour week.
            When I do these things, I have more energy, get more done in less time, am rarely sick, feel better, and enjoy life more.

What a concept; sleep more, work less, and be more creative, efficient, and effective.

           I didn't change overnight and learned to decompress anywhere. For example, I arrived at an Asian airport 3 hours early, discovered a butterfly garden, and spent 2 hours in a peaceful, beautiful universe; no email, false urgency, distractions, or modern-life intrusions. I walked out calm, energized, and thoughtful to make the 30-hour flight a creative experience, not a dreaded ordeal.

           At the end of your path, no one writes on your tombstone, "He was a good corporate citizen," "She was a multitasking maven" or "The kids bragged about how many hours mommy and daddy worked."

           I always bring these discussions back to lessons from great leaders, especially the framers of the Constitution. The delegates included leisure naturally; they fished, trekked to factories, attended concerts, lectures, and religious services, read books, enjoyed tea with "the ladies" and dining with friends, kept up lively correspondence with family and friends, and ran businesses from afar. They mastered the art of a balanced life. Look what they accomplished; they created a Constitution for a successful republic, which is still in place. These guys had their wits about them. Can you say the same?

            Are you ready for workaholic rehab? Are you ready to change yourself and lead your team to be more creative and productive and transform the destructive workaholic culture of your organization?

            Dr. Deming, the great business guru said, "Why are we here [work]? We are here to come alive; to have joy in our work."

            You cannot be joyous, productive or creative when you?re running on empty. In other words, slow down to speed up.

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©Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc

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320 S. Flamingo Road, Suite 291, Pembroke Pines, FL 33027