Work Less . . . Accomplish More!
“The greatest geniuses accomplish more when they work less.”
Leonardo da Vinci quote from Michael Gelb’s book, How To Think Like Leonardo da
Can this really be true? Many of us were mentored to ‘keep
your nose to the grindstone’. In the days of corporate downsizings, many people
go through each day keeping a low profile with the hope of getting bypassed on
one more workforce reduction. As a result, the concept of working more intensely
and longer hours is reinforced.
Many professionals report that they work at least 50 hours per week, and often
with minimal break time. In many corporations, it’s a sign of loyalty and
dedication if one works 50+ hours per week.
How does this impact their productivity and innovation? It’s a
negative impact which costs organizations with disengaged employees and often
costs the employee their health and life enjoyment. It also drains your brain.
Did you know . . . the brain represents only 2%
of the body’s weight, but requires almost 25% of its oxygen?
- When you work without recharging your brain, you lose productivity and
- When you alternate your mental activity, you challenge your intellect
and gain energy and focus!
The linear work habits of professionals vary significantly.
Many of my clients don’t take lunch (I own up – I rarely took lunch when I
worked in a corporate environment!) or eat lunch at their desk. They work until
their ‘to do’ list is complete with only minimum breaks.
What most of us don’t realize is that this linear approach to work actually
reduces productivity and performance!
Remember my reference to ‘ultradian rhythms’ in the July 2005 edition of
This 90-120 minute rhythm is our body’s way of communicating that we need to
vary our work activities. If you are working on an intense project deadline,
schedule time in your routine to engage in an energetically opposite activity.
For example, if you’re analyzing a data/budget report (mental, linear activity),
after 90–120 minutes, take a break. Make note of where you ended so you can
quickly get reengaged when you return. Schedule a walk down the hall for a
casual, conversational update with a co-worker (social, unstructured activity).
Is the number of hours that one works reflective of their results and
One of my managers had a philosophy about productivity. Her belief is that if it
only takes you 6 hours to complete a task, why put in more hours just to log the
hours? She believed in life balance, and enjoyed relaxation during her weekends.
She had one of the most highly regarded and productive teams in the company.
They were respected for their professionalism, quality and volume of work, and
dedication to deadlines. The manager received continuous promotions, and was
well liked by all levels of management.
What was her key to success? She knew how to balance
stress and recovery.
One of the keys to working less and accomplishing more
is to alternate the type of mental activity in which you engage throughout the
day. She alternated linear, analytical mental activity with social, creative
projects, and established the same work style in her organization.
What is most important to you and your organization? The
amount of time that you and your staff devote to your jobs or in the quality and
energy brought to each task?
- Many of my clients have elected to go against this culture and limit their
work time to 40–45 hours per week.
- In addition, they schedule an activity in the evening that they enjoy to
reinforce their accountability to their commitment.
What other stress recovery strategies are used by professionals?
Executives have used these strategies to balance engagement and disengagement,
activity and rest that have resulted in company turn-arounds, increased
productivity, and overall feeling of well-being and mental clarity.
- Schedule set times to answer voicemail and e-mail. Turn off your ringer or
minimize your e-mail screen so you’re not tempted to respond.
- Schedule 15 minute breaks in your business meetings that are over 1.5 hours
- Select a project that you can work on outside of the office. Pack up your
project, and walk to a Starbucks or nearby coffee shoppe for a change of
- For road warriors, this may be a bit challenging – never work on airplanes.
Commit to reading pleasure books or listening to music.
- Schedule a 4 day weekend each month or at least each quarter. If this isn’t
possible with family obligations, budget constraints or lack of vacation time,
schedule ‘time off’ from all at-home and work-related responsibilities. Take a
drive or visit a museum with family or friends.
- If it’s great weather, go to the park in the evening for a walk with the
Notice that I’ve included other people in many of these stress recovery
strategies. Many of my clients report a feeling of isolation in their fast paced
lives. They miss quality time with family and friends.
Healthy, positive, supportive relationships are great energizers!
Here’s your opportunity to apply what you’ve learned to creating more
focus – vitality – passion in YOUR life!
Coaching Exercise: Call to Action!
1. Take a few minutes to reflect on a few important questions about
- What are your dreams?
- How do you want to make a difference in your life?
- What gets in your way?
- Does change feel like too much work?
- Do you believe that you just don’t have enough time to devote to realizing
2. Outline a few ways that you can work less this week, and be aware of
It may feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Humor me and go with it for a week . .
. one day at a time. Discover if you actually feel more energized after taking
quality breaks! You may even want to stretch yourself and leave early one day!
3. Make sure to share with a buddy who supports your growth and change.
Remember, healthy, positive, supportive relationships are great energizers!
4. Repeat the exercise for a second week, and experience how much
easier it is.
One of my clients took the leap, and scheduled more fun activities
in his life. His reward – he just got promoted!
PROFESSIONAL COACHING: It is truly unlike
anything you've ever experienced before. Not sure whether coaching - or the
timing for coaching is for you? Click here to learn about other client
Gerrie is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and practical, innovative career
strategist who works with mid-career professionals to create more
focus – vitality - passion in their work. She is an expert in the
turn-around model and takes a holistic approach in her executive coaching
practice. For more information, click on
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- Network Your Way to Success! 5 Steps to Building Powerful
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Co-hosts: Gerrie Dresser and Rick Hays, VP
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