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“The best way to get more done is to spend more time doing less”

– Tony Schwartz

Do you check your emails before you get out of bed in the morning; skip lunch and run from meeting to meeting? Do you sometimes feel that you’re on the proverbial treadmill? It’s hard not to in our wired society.

Time, as we well know, is a finite resource. Try as we might, we can’t increase it. Yet, organizations persist in trying to convince us that the harder we work, the more we’ll get done. In a recent study of 400 employees, sleeping less than 6 hours a night was the best predictor of job burnout.

Tony Schwartz, the author of the book Be Excellent at Anything and CEO of the Energy Project posits the theory that the best way to get more done is to spend more time doing less. More and more research into the science of stamina is proving this to be true. Unlike time, personal energy is renewable, says Schwartz and employees need to take more control of their time to recharge themselves. In a study Schwartz conducted at Wachovia Bank, a group of employees were taught strategies to build and sustain their energy. This group exceeded the control group’s year-over-year revenues by 20%. The participants also reported that it had a positive effect on their relationships with customers, and on their productivity.

The need for renewal is physiological. Research has shown that our energy waxes and wanes in cycles throughout the day. Approximately every 90 minutes, we move from a state of alertness to fatigue. Instead of paying attention to those signals, we often override them by drinking coffee, eating sugar or by pushing harder. As it turns out, working in 90-minute increments and taking a short break is a much better way to increase productivity. Eliminating multi-tasking, getting away from your desk at lunch and expressing appreciation to others can help us renew our energy, build physical, emotional and mental resilience. Even small changes can have a positive effect.

Tackling the most challenging projects in the first 90 minutes of your day, followed by a short break is a valuable strategy for staying focused and getting more done.
In short, the ways in which you manage your energy are far more important than the number of hours you work. Allowing time for renewal will increase your productivity and lead to greater feelings of satisfaction.

Exercise:
Instead of checking your email first thing in the morning, undertake a difficult project for 90 minutes. Take a short break by breathing deeply for one minute. Breathe in to the count of 4 and out to the count of 8. This simple intervention quiets the mind and lowers stress hormones.