Speak to almost any colleague, customer or supplier and most people will tell you there aren’t enough hours in the day. With the business world constantly evolving and seeking efficiencies to drive profits and lower costs, and our phones connecting us 24/7, it feels like our jobs are getting busier by the day.
So how do we work more efficiently and get it all done? We asked Randstad Recruitment and surprisingly, the answer was simply to “do less”.
Adrianna Loveday, a registered psychologist with Randstad’s HR Consulting division, said we are doing some serious damage to both our work product and ourselves with our obsession with “multi-tasking” and “over thinking”. The antidote she says is to practice intentional non-doing and mindfulness.
Adrianna says that mindfulness is about stilling your mind and understanding that, fundamentally, the present moment is all we really have.
“It’s about being awake and aware – making what you are doing right now the most important thing in the world, even if it is boring and mundane,” Adrianna said.
“The extra demand on the brain of constantly switching tasks may actually make us less effective and can even be damaging to our health as the various systems of the body become stressed and overworked (eg. sore neck), and manifest as strong emotional reactions (eg. lack of self control).”
Adrianna suggests an example of our obsession with multi-tasking is someone trying to view or respond to emails, while another colleague is talking to them.
“Consider being under pressure to meet an important deadline and having an employee walk into your office to tell you about a donkey rescue centre she recently visited,” she said.
“Instead of paying attention to her story, you find yourself thinking, “I have to respond to that email,” or even planning what you’ll have for lunch that day. ”
Adrianna said that to become “mindful” in this situation, you should take the time to listen attentively to the story and stop thinking about your “future ideal” (and the fact that you care more about incoming emails than the plight of donkeys). You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
“When having a conversation with a colleague, be wholly present and you might surprise yourself to learn that you actually enjoy donkey stories,” she said.
“Stop multi-tasking and take the time to simply be present and I guarantee you will observe the benefits on your performance.”
Adrianna said, as with any new skill, staying in the present takes practice.
She said the best way to start is by practicing on the drive to work.
“Don’t allow your thoughts to stray to the past or to the chaos you might have left behind before running out the door (“did I turn the coffee machine off?”). Nor should you wander to the future (“what meetings do I have today?” or “I have to remember to reply to that email”). Rather, stay in the present and simply take in your present experience of the commute.
“Eventually you will find yourself calling on this skill to achieve higher levels of insight, make better decisions, improve your ability to recall important facts from conversations, generate more abstract ideas and reduce stress levels.
” You will find this will train your brain to pay more attention while at work,” Said Adrianna.
Adrianna Loveday is a registered psychologist with Randstad’s HR Consulting division