Americans now work 8.5 hours more per week than they did in 1979. Office workers spend more than a quarter of each day writing and responding to e-mails. And nearly one-third of working adults get six hours or less of sleep a night, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
This bias to overwork, however, is not the route to innovation, optimal decision making or peak performance. Instead of “leaning in,” research on creativity and productivity tells us to “lean back” for competitive advantage.
Finally, there’s an evidence-based case for “less being more.”
Five Ways to “Lean Back” for Success
- Observe the 90-Minute Rule. Extensive research on peak performers ranging from athletes to musicians shows that working in 90-minute intervals maximizes productivity. This is because we move from a state of alertness progressively into fatigue approximately every 90 minutes.
- Include a “Do Nothing” Option. When making decisions , especially after lengthy deliberation and discussion, be sure to include a “Do Nothing” option. Adding this option to choices has been shown to correct the tendency towards a bias to action and doing more.
- Go for a Walk. Stanford researchers found that walking increases creativity substantially and with lingering post-activity effects. And it does not matter whether walking is indoors on a treadmill or outdoors.
- Take a Nap. A 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as well as eight hours of sleep in research conducted at the University of California, Riverside. In another study, when air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap, they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction speed.
- Get More Sleep. Studies show that lack of sleep is the single strongest predictor of job burnout. Increased sleep, on the other hand, has been shown to significantly increase physical and mental performance.
Working Smart in the New Normal
“Leaning back” involves a radical re-thinking of how to elevate individual, team and organizational performance in our 24/7 business world. The smart money is on strategic investment of time and energy. Leaders need to set a tone at the top with their own values and actions in promoting a culture of high-value time utilization and regular personal renewal.