In the latest in our series of guest posts we are given some tips on how to stop working so hard in order to be more productive.
Have you ever felt like despite your best efforts you are missing on some of your deadlines?
Little by little, it starts gnawing at you until you’re left with just one thought: If only I knew how to work harder, everything on my to-do list would have been finished.
It is no surprise that these thoughts roam around in our minds despite doing our best. Since childhood, we are taught to be hard working for being successful. It’s when we explore the world that we realise the most productive people don’t work hard, they work smart and Oh My God, they take breaks too!
Why do we feel guilty?
Just like other emotions guide us physically or psychologically, guilt is also an informative emotion. It’s a sign by our brain that we’re not acting in accordance with our established personal opinions and values. For instance, here are a few things that often make us feel guilty:
- Taking too long to revert to an email;
- Drinking too much coffee/ sugar;
- Not helping people who need very little help from us;
- Can’t stop smoking;
- Failing to live up to the expectations of our loved ones;
- Can’t keep pace with the trends due to workload, and many more;
We all have a predefined image of ourselves in our mind. We assume ourselves as healthy, reliable, hardworking, disciplined, helpful, and empathetic. And when we react in contrast to that established picture in our minds, we feel guilty.
So what can we do to stop feeling guilty about not working as hard as possible?
Take a break!
Work is of course important. But as a fact, stepping back from our work is what helps us work better.
If taking breaks during your work time makes you feel guilty, counterbalance this feeling by taking it as a refreshment and pause. Think about it as charging yourself. You can’t work with a dead battery now, can you?
Recharging, relaxing, and distributing your attention are a few ways to become more productive at work. The break helps you rest, connect the dots, and plan more efficiently for the future.
In fact, for all the people working in creative fields, look into the past. Some of your best ideas came when you almost fell asleep in the shower, were coming back to home after work or even just sitting and staring out of the window.
Riane Eisler – a meta-historian describes our culture as an organised and strict hierarchical ranking of its members.
Our ranking is always being threatened. There is always someone who is doing more or doing better, which may result in losing our rank or position in the hierarchy. He also suggested a partnership model, which is conceptualised around linking and connecting.
The key here is to recognise that there’s another way to co-exist and flourish. We don’t have to rank, compare, or compete. We need to visualise that everyone is capable of something and that our paths and timelines are different.
After all, it would be stupid, wouldn’t it, if on my first day at gym, I try to imitate someone who has been going to the gym now for a year. Know your strengths but also know your limits. Work on being better than what you were, not what someone else is.
Avoid the Guilt tunnel
It’s a general belief that doing something is better than doing nothing.
When you feel guilty for not working hard, you probably dive into work. But during that moment of guilt, you may not always be at your best to set priorities. You lose focus from much more important work. You need to identify the priority of work before putting any efforts into it.
Another reason why guilt is a tunnel is that when you feel guilty of not giving your best, you start to remember every minor and major failure you ever had.
Trust me a guilt trip is the last thing you need to motivate you. So try to avoid guilt as much as possible.
As I mentioned above, it’s not about how busy you are, but what you are busy at?
Track your productivity
By tracking your productivity you can prove to yourself why taking that break was actually not bad. It’s only when you measure and anticipate your productivity, you realise how hard you have been working for little differences.
Tracking productivity will also help you to find more time for other things you always wanted to do. If your boss is not satisfied with your methods then you can use more credible methods and a work tracking software.
Set your own goals
Not everyone’s opinion should be important to you. When you fail to live up to the expectations of your loved ones, you can easily feel guilty. Therefore you must be clear and careful about whose expectations you attach value to. It’s always better to analyse and realistically set up your own goals and milestones.
Calculate life accounts and not bank accounts
You always see your bosses with their rich and expensive cars, gadgets and boots. But have you ever noticed how enriched their social and personal lives are? How many true friends and loved ones they actually have.
This may sound silly but bank balance is not a measure of your happiness, not always. You might not be able to afford a coffee at Starbucks everyday but a coffee at home with a childhood friend will surely make you happy.
Creativity can’t be forced
As important it is to keep pushing yourself to the limit, it’s also crucial to know your limits. You must remind yourself that it’s more important to work better than longer.
You need to accept that you cannot always be creative, great at solving problems if you’re overworked and exhausted.
Balance your physical and mental health
Due to long sitting hours and work pressure, people become physically and mentally unhealthy which then reflects in their work efficiency.
“Health is wealth” is not just a saying. Obesity is just the beginning. Weak eye sight, increasing body fat, and weak muscles are some of the indicators. Due to continuous mental stress, your blood sugar levels will be high and so will be your blood pressure.
There are numerous cases where people pushing themselves to work too hard on projects and assignments ended up being unhealthy and regretful.
Recognise process over endpoint.
You might just need to reframe your life “as a process of growth, not of being ‘done’,” says the author of The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women, “You can celebrate your growth instead of feeling guilty for things left undone or incomplete.” You should focus on personal and professional growth and moving towards your goals.
Don’t let guilt emerging from not working prevent you from taking a much-needed break. Chances are you value not working, as well.
Don’t be fooled by people who desperately feel the need to defend that they don’t have a life beyond their business. Fix your priorities before feeling guilty for your procrastination.
Take a break, breathe out the stress, think from a different perspective and let things go which are beyond your current capabilities. Never compare your achievements with others’ success.
Maintain the balance between your professional and personal life. Keep your body healthy and mind fresh.
And if you still can’t get rid of the guilt, question yourself if this is really what you want to do? Having a passion for work is always more appreciated than hard work.
‘Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time’John Lubbock, The Use of Life
Author Bio: Shyamal Parikh
Shyamal is the Founder of SmartTask, an online work management tool that’s helping teams be more productive by having clarity on who’s doing what by when. Has a penchant for researching and sharing strategies that could benefit a team’s productivity.