As it turns out, productivity and stress aren’t always bedfellows. The general assumption is that the more productive you are, the more stressed you’ll be, and vice versa. A lot of the time, though, the reverse happens: people become less and less productive while also getting increasingly stressed over time.
When it comes to figuring out why, the more straightforward answer would be to look at workflows; how people go about getting things done affects both their productivity and how stressed they are. Compulsive phone and email-checking and constant multitasking, as explained in part 1, weaken your concentration ability, therefore lowering productivity and increasing stress.
Aside from these, though, there are at least three other common (but often overlooked) workplace issues that worsen the problem. Part 2 explores these issues.
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Technology often gets the brunt of the blame for creating a world that’s so incessantly connected that disengaging from it becomes near impossible. In a sense, it’s not wrong; the proliferation of handheld devices in the past few years have made it harder for us to neatly separate our work lives from the rest of our lives.
At the same time, though, learning to mentally separate work-related thoughts from everything else is something people have probably had to struggle with since 9-to-5 jobs became the norm.
This, in fact, is the real root of our ongoing fights for work-life balance; most of us bringing work-related stress home and home-related stress to work. Anyone can draw a line in the sand between work and life, but keeping that line watertight, airtight, and bulletproof, is what’s difficult.
To that end, incorporating a “shutdown ritual” into your daily routine is vital. According to Cal Newport, bestselling author of “Deep Work”, these allow you to take stock of exactly what you’ve accomplished during the workday and what’s still undone. Not only does it allow you to easily pick up where you left off the next day, it’s also a means of signalling to your mind that it’s time to switch off your “work mode” so that it can start to focus on other aspects of your life.
Sometimes your day is so hectic that you barely have time to breathe, much less think about all the clutter lying around on your desk. No matter how much you try to tidy up, it always seems to revert back to the same old mess.
Research has shown, though, that stress and unorganised workspaces mutually reinforce each other; stress can make you turn your desk inside out looking for the things you need, which in turn stresses you out even more.
One of the most important rules would-be chefs are taught as they learn the tricks of the trade is to keep your countertop clean. The messier and the more cluttered the countertop, the higher the chances of slip-ups and the slower you work. Simply put, messy workspaces make for messy workers.
Just like it’s hard to find something you need when you’ve got a messy workspace, it can make your thoughts far too cluttered and chaotic to easily extract what you need from your mind when you need to.
Taking care of your mind, heart, and body are crucial aspects of ensuring that you can operate at your optimal productivity levels. Yet it’s also something most of us constantly neglect, in favour of giving ourselves to the most pressing need at any given moment. Sometimes the “pressing need” is work, other times it’s family or some other such commitment.
While it certainly demonstrates a laudable amount of dedication, it also points to a deeper truth: we don’t often give ourselves “quiet time” or take care of our health, because there’s always something else that requires our immediate attention.
With knowledge work in particular, the less you take care of yourself, the more you’re jeopardising your own productivity.
When you’re stressed, tired, and just need a break, but you keep pushing yourself instead of giving yourself a short time-out to get yourself together, you’re actually penalising yourself. The mind works far less efficiently when you’re stressed and tired. Self-care, in this sense, is not a sign of weakness; it’s a necessity to keep yourself in top form.