Work and Organizations Professor Theresa Glomb shares evidence-based practices that anyone can deploy to promote greater productivity and well-being.
We are all struggling to figure out work in this new environment. But my motto for making work better—“Work Hard. Have Fun. Choose Kind. Be Present.”–still resonates. It may even resonate more in these difficult times.
With these themes in mind, below are simple, evidence-based practices that you can deploy to promote greater productivity and well-being. Many of these were developed with “normal” work environments in mind, but they will work even when working from home. They may not all work for you, but I hope that you will try a variety of these activities, modify them for your needs, share ideas with others, etc. We are all grappling with “the new normal,” so it is a great time to try things outside your comfort zone with an attitude of experimentation. You might find some to bring back into your work environments.
Try “parking downhill” and creating conditions for flow
- Schedule 60-90 min of uninterrupted work
- Prepare resources before the start of the day (or week) and plan what will happen; schedule a brief meeting with yourself every day to plan out your day
- Resist email or media first thing in the morning; instead tackle a work task
- Set up work for small wins; think about one thing that you can accomplish that day and JDI (Just Do It!)
Consider how to organize work to make work time less fractured
- Email free times/days
- Meeting free times/days (and days designated for status/meetings)
- On call days/evenings rotated through team
- Start adding NO REPLY NEEDED to your emails (and train others to do so as well)
- When you are interrupted, write down next steps to minimize attention residue and allow you to quickly get back into your work
Consider how to make virtual meetings more efficient
- Schedule shorter meetings
- Create agendas with time allocations
- Routinize your meetings/status/crisis management with template for each meeting
- Try being more decisive, driving meeting discussion toward decision making (OHIO—Only Handle It Once)
Analyze your tasks in terms of appropriate effort and time allocation
- Classify tasks as minimum, moderate, maximum in terms of energy/effort
- Track how you spend your time over a few days. Are there any tasks you can cut back on? delegate? simplify? group together related tasks?
- When you say yes to a request put time for it in your calendar to ensure your task blocks are easier to track and balance
Reduce both task switching and multi-tasking
- Replace multi-tasking with uni-tasking bursts
- Use the Promodoro Method. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one task only until timer goes off and then take a short break. Repeat.
- Approach a difficult, unfinished task, by breaking it up into smaller segments. When tempted to switch tasks or stop, slow down and say “when X is done, I will then move on.”
Establish routines for reflecting on the good
- Reflect on three good things individually and in meetings
- Send a daily gratitude email
- Share positive events with others
- Think about your rituals/celebrations around success
- Use apps that promote greater reflection & recovery
- Reflect on what brings you happiness as a colleague or leader and do more of that
Routines for recovery
- Reclaim the lunch break or coffee hour and be sure to have a meaningful break
- Build in micro-moments for recovery
- Build in transition routines (mindful walk outside; deep breathing before logging into your next meeting; mindful hand washing)
- Integration of nature may be particularly effective for recovery so go outside
- Set the tone for recovery; if you are a manager, be sure to ask what your employees are doing to take care of themselves
- Get more sleep—the evidence is unassailable that you will be more productive
Establish questions that align your activities with your values
- Ask yourself: Is this how I want to spend my time?
- Ask yourself: Is this activity or request a “Hell yes !”or “no”? Can you turn something into a “Hell Yes!” activity?
Underscore prosocial impact by linking work more directly to beneficiaries
- Share experiences with your team that underscores prosocial elements of the work that you do; ask them to share experiences as well
- Consider routines (events, letters, feedback) to circle back beneficiary information
- Ask yourself: To whom was I a good friend/colleague/manager today?
- Help someone that you normally would not; share your knowledge or expertise and let others know what your strengths are (I am very good at X; I could provide advice for Y)
Try a Loving Kindness Meditation
- Think of a coworker, just like you. It can be anyone you work with. Start with someone who you like or are neutral about. Silently repeat one or two of the following phrases while holding this person in your mind.
“____________ has feelings, emotions, thoughts just like I do.”
“____________ wants to be happy at work, just like I do.”
“ ____________would like to be free from suffering, just like I do.”
Next, offer well-wishes to this person using phrases such as:
“May ________be well in body and mind.”
“May _______ be filled with kindness.”
“May ________be safe and secure.”
Repeat this exercise with someone you do not get along with at work.
Mindful Breathing Exercises
- Try mindful breathing for 1, 3, 5 minutes
- Try 4-7-8 breathing (4 seconds in; 7 seconds hold; 8 seconds out)
- Do a “desk meditation” for 10 minutes (Calm and Stopbreathethink.org has good free resources)
- Try to catch yourself when you are in a state of continuous partial attention. Stop thinking ahead. Breathe and focus on the present moment.
- Walking Meditation; walk to meeting, coffee break, etc. mindfully. Stop texting and checking phone and just walk.
- Doing a mindful eating exercise. Select a meal, or even just a snack and eat it mindfully attending to the colors, taste, and smells of the food. Eat without reading or checking email.
- Bring increased physiological awareness through the day. Ask yourself: what’s up with my body right now? Stop and notice how you are holding your shoulders or how tightly you are holding whatever is in your hand. Are your shoulders hunched? What is the quality of your grip? Is anything tense? Are you causing unneeded tension?
- Choose how to start your day. Can you visualize your day? Think about what you are looking forward to. Can you resist grabbing your phone and checking email immediately?
- Try to insert a purposeful pause before reacting or responding. Pause before answering a question, picking up your phone, or shooting off a text or email. Try reading an email or text twice and pausing before composing a reply.
- Before starting a meeting, consider how you want to viewed by the end of the meeting. Open? Courageous? Reactive? What can you do to bring your vision into reality?
TED Talk on “Let’s Make Work Better” by Theresa Glomb, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCYeEt94EMc
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