Four Ways To Work Productively Without Struggling or Being Miserable

An Atypical Writer’s Note: I would love to tell you that I discovered these principles in ancient texts or through my award-winning research studies on working effectively. However, the fact is I discovered them by doing the EXACT OPPOSITE OF EACH ONE. I have changed the names and exaggerated the details of each example in this post for the sake of protecting the identity of the person involved.  (But let me just say his first name might rhyme with mason.)    

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I have come to believe that working productively involves understanding how to work Consistently, Effectively, Efficiently and Joyfully.

Consistently means not working to the point of exhaustion and then being out of commission for a period of time because of fatigue or sickness, but rather working fewer hours, so that you can work in a steady and productive manner.

For example, Stanley’s boss is focused on productivity and doesn’t care what hours his employees choose to work as long as they get their job done.

Stanley wants to show the boss that he’s exceedingly motivated so he chooses to work 75 hours each week for three weeks straight.

Then at the end of the third week, he falls asleep on the way home. Luckily, he only hits a guard rail, throwing his back out.  This injury puts him out of commission for the two weeks he spends recuperating.

Now Stanley’s total amount of work is 225 hours in five weeks, 75 hours each of the first three weeks and zero hours for each of the next two weeks.  In addition, Stanley was only productive for 50 of the hours during each of the weeks he worked.  During, the other 25 hours he felt exhausted, miserable and strongly disliked his job.

So in grand total, Stanley put in 150 productive hours in a five-week period.  One hundred fifty productive hours, divided by the five weeks equals an average of thirty productive hours of work a week over the five-week period.

So, Stanley could have gotten the same amount of productive work done a week if he had worked just thirty hours a week for the five-week period.  He also could have probably avoided an auto accident, damage to his car, throwing his back out, pain, and recovery time.  If Stanley had worked fewer hours each week, he would have also had ample free time to enjoy his life during those five weeks.

Basically, by working less, but working smarter and more consistently, Stanley could have given himself and his boss a just as productive if not more productive five weeks.  In addition, he could have provided himself with a joyful five-week experience versus five weeks of struggle.

Effectively means you apply your focus to the task at hand.

For example, one of the things Gloria loves about having her own business is the freedom to make her own rules.  A few months ago, she was listening to a mystery book on CD while she did the monthly book-keeping for her business.  Gloria took her time because she was enjoying the audio book and finished her book-keeping in two and a half hours.

Although she is great at accounting, Gloria was so engrossed in her audio book that day a few months ago that she is now finding errors in her calculations, errors which are currently costing her many hours of extra time and a great deal of stress to figure out.

Alternatively a few months ago, Gloria could’ve chosen to totally concentrate on the book-keeping without distractions.  By totally focusing, she could have gotten it done and double checked in an hour and half and avoided all the extra time fixing mistakes, time she could have used to read the mystery books she loves.

Efficiently means that you make use of time-saving technology when it is available.  (The following is an extreme example.  There are many more subtle examples in our work environments.)

For example, Tim’s boss asks him to copy fifty pages of text and doesn’t care how this job is done just as long as it’s accurate.  Tim has the choice between doing this job in ten minutes with a copy machine, or spending a whole day copying the pages long hand.

Whichever way Tim chooses, he will do a great job meeting his boss’s specifications.

However, copying by hand takes seven hours and fifty minutes longer than using a copy machine and would be exhausting, tedious and most likely full of struggle.  Plus, Tim would have missed 7 hours and fifty minutes of opportunities to do other work.

Joyfully means striving to be happy as you work.  This is a gift to yourself, as well as those around you.

Susan just doesn’t like end of the month inventory.  Her co-workers know the end of the month is coming because Susan is cranky, angry, and critical for the whole week before inventory.  And on the day of inventory, watch out!   Stay out of Susan’s way!  If one of Susan’s co-workers forgets and makes even the smallest joke within the range of her hearing, the outcome isn’t appealing.

Alternatively, Susan could focus on smiling and laughing on inventory day, as well as the week leading up to it, even though she knows that in the past these times have been tedious and stressful for her.  Then as Susan’s co-workers see her smiling and laughing, they are more likely to smile and laugh, which would empower them all to work as a team to lighten this task.  This jovial atmosphere would probably eventually result in inventory day being less tedious and stressful for Susan.

Game of the Day

What ideas in this blog could you use to make your workday more productive and enjoyable?

How can you begin to use the ideas that you like today?

Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to www.HeroicYesProductions.com

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Instead of Working Hard All Day, Work Nice and Easy

A few centuries ago, before the railroad, pioneers with covered wagons had to WORK HARD to get from New York to LA.  Between tending the horses, hunting for food, finding water, pioneers were exceedingly busy people.  (Did pioneers actually ever travel directly from New York to LA in covered wagons?  I have no idea.  We may be talking about hypothetical pioneers, but please work with me for the sake of this example.)

These pioneers could indeed say we are lazy for flying across the country instead of hitching horses to a covered wagon.  But we still gladly choose to fly across country in under six hours, instead of enduring months of hard, risky work in a covered wagon.  In choosing to book a flight instead of hitching-up horses, we are choosing to WORK NICE AND EASY.

I say we choose to “work nice and easy” instead of we choose to “work smart” because our pioneer friends were very smart.  They had to know how to tend horses, how to navigate a nation (without the aid of Google Maps) and how to survive (as in how to avoid being eaten by grizzly bears and the like).  Successfully accomplishing these tasks arguably took more skills than whipping out a boarding pass and walking down a jet bridge.  So the pioneers were working very smart but still very, very hard.

I’m thinking about the concept of WORKING NICE AND EASY because I’ve noticed that sometimes I’ve worked hard mostly to feel like I’m a hard worker.  I’ve worked hard at busy work.  I’ve worked hard at doing things very inefficiently.  Sometimes, I’ve even worked hard at doing things the “old fashion way,” as I avoided the technology that would make the job five times as fast.

This is all CRAZY!

Unless we simply want to engage in the activity of working very hard, why not do a little PRE-WORK before we actually work? Why not first spend some time choosing well-thought out work, work that has a high potential of being useful, work that gets us from point A to point B in a very efficient manner? 

Now I’m not suggesting we take short cuts that compromise the quality of our work.  Our planes still have to traverse the same distance as the pioneers’ covered wagons did.  To take a plane is not to take a short cut but simply to make wise use of the options available.

Taking a plane versus a covered wagon is a very dramatic and obvious example of the wonder of WORKING NICE AND EASY.

It can be very rewarding to discover both dramatic and far subtler ways of WORKING NICE AND EASY.

If you still desire to feel like you are working hard, you can even say to yourself (and other), “I’m working hard at WORKING NICE AND EASY.”

Have an amazing day of WORKING NICE AND EASY!

Game of the Day

What ways can you WORK NICE AND EASY at home?

What ways can you WORK NICE AND EASY when you are at work?

Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to www.HeroicYesProductions.com.

Our Lives Are Our Free Time

Ok, here I am at Subway about to write a blog entitled, “Our Lives Are Our Free Time.”  Suddenly, I catch myself thinking, “I HAVE TO eat fast, so I can get going on this blog.”

In the moment, I say, “I HAVE TO eat fast,” I realize that I’m not allowing myself to be free.

In truth, I could choose to spend the next seven hours in Subway savoring each morsel of my sandwich.  Then I could spend another couple of hours at home eating the leftovers.*

Now my recognition that I am free to take as long as I want to eat my sandwich is admittedly a small recognition in the grand scheme of recognitions.  However, it’s amazing to think of how often we speak to ourselves in the language of “I HAVE TO,” instead of the language of “I choose to.”

When we insist to ourselves that we have to do this or that, we fill our lives with self-created burdensome obligations instead of noticing that we are actually free to choose what we do.

One of our biggest areas where we say, “I HAVE TO” relates to work.  How often have you said, “I have to go to work”?

I know being self-employed as a professional speaker and writer; I find myself saying “I HAVE TO” work on a regular basis.

It is often easy to complain about having to work.  But when we say we have to go to work, we drastically reduce the hours of our lives in which we have the opportunity to be free.

There are two solutions that I can think of to this dilemma.  One solution might be that we could all in mass just decide not to work anymore.  (This would probably create worldwide chaos.  So, let’s not try it.)

Or we could start considering our whole lives as our free time, even the portion of our lives that we chose to devote to work.

And think about it, we really do choose to work.  We choose to work to make the money we need to support the lifestyle we want to live.  There is no law saying that we have to live the lifestyle we do.   We choose to live the lifestyle we do, so we make the amount of money we need to make to live out our choice.

Seen from this perspective, our lives are our free time.  With a portion of that free time, we choose to work.  This is a unique way to think about work.  May it help us recognize our freedom in everything we do.

* (Note the idea of me eating a sandwich for nine hours is purely hypothetical.  At this point in my life, I’m far more likely to spend nine minutes eating a sandwich.)

(Can you imagine what a person would learn about life by spending nine hours eating a sandwich?)

(I can’t.)

Game of the Day

The next time you are at work, try thinking to yourself, “My life is my free time and I chose to use some of that free time to work.”

For bonus points, say this to three people at work.

The Bottom Line Is Joy

Without happiness, our work can become the serious mechanics of making money instead of the joy of making a living.  When times get tough at work, often one of the first things we cut from our day is our satisfaction.  We replace satisfaction with stress, frustration and the like.

I’ve started reflecting upon this question:

Are we more productive and creative at work when we are happy or when we are miserable?

Some days when I’m working I notice that I can indeed become stressed out, frustrated and unhappy.  These feelings have actually occurred more often than I like to admit.

And the funny thing is that part of my training has included becoming a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader and Teacher, as well as, a Laughter Life Coach.

One would think that these three credentials would inoculate me from creating miserable days at work.

However, I have found that even these great credentials don’t save me from miserable days at work; rather it takes constant practice to create joy and bring it to the job.

At work, we can play and have fun, while being productive, if we keep practicing and practicing.

This practice is important because being miserable not only limits our quality of life but our ability to be creative and achieve results.

While the circumstances of our work may be challenging, we have the power to create these circumstances as playful and rewarding, rather than miserable.  We can move from feeling like a victim of our work to being the joyful hero of our work.

The key is the daily practice of creating ways to play and laugh at work while still being productive.

So let’s all create happiness, quality, results and a strong bottom line!

Game of the Day

How can you create happiness at work even when the circumstances are challenging?

Being Productive and Relaxed

   

Once and awhile, we want to get away to that special place, be it an island in the middle of the ocean or some hide-away in the woods to relax and recharge.  But the vast majority of the time we are participating in our daily lives at our homes, at our work places, in our neighborhoods, on our commutes.  These are the locations familiar to us and the locations where being able to relax and be productive at the same time will make the most difference.

Being able to relax in the typical situations of our daily lives gives us the focus to produce the results we want, gives us a manner that attracts friends and colleagues, and puts us in a state of mind to appreciate and celebrate the results we achieve.

On the other hand, I have learned from years of first hand experience that anxiety narrows our vision, and makes us forgetful of our talents.  For many years, I was tight in my body, so my view of the world was constricted and inflexible in many senses.

Before I wrote this post, I consulted my powerful friend Dan Johnson who also happens to be a premiere massage therapist and a Certified Laughter Coach.  He suggested the word “myopic” based on the ideas about stress that I was describing.  The word myopic made me think of the blinders that are sometimes put on either side of a horse’s eyes during parades so that a horse can only look straight ahead.  This helps the horse not to be spooked.

Dan was right in using the word myopic to describe how I felt when I was stressed, which I find very ironic because I have always prided myself on being open-minded.  While I may have been open-minded much of my life, I had a myopic focus on many fears and frustrations and my body responded by being tense and constricted.

People used to advise me to “just relax.”  I wasn’t able to fulfill on their request.  I would think about relaxing and that I should relax, but I just was unable to efficiently do it.  It was as if I had blinders around my eyes that focused my attention on my tension.  When someone told me to relax, it was like they lifted my blinders.   However, I was used to focusing straight ahead on my tension. I couldn’t begin to understand how I might gaze into the periphery of what I was experiencing and discover a life of relaxation.

Slowly, I recognized that to feel more relaxation in my daily life, I needed to develop the skills to relax my body on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there is no exact prescription for relaxation.  If there was, I would have taken lots of it in junior high. Many methods of creating relaxation in our daily routine exist. Belly breathing, which I talked about in yesterday’s blog, may be one of the simplest places to begin a journey towards being more relaxed and at the same time maintaining productive lifestyle.  Beyond that, ways of calming your mind that work for you and an exercise routine that you love can make a world of difference.  The trick and game is to find what works for you so that you can enjoy productive relaxation on a daily basis.

 Game Of The Day

Where are you now in the adventure of being productive and relaxed at the same time?

What is your next step towards further strengthening your ability to be productive and relaxed at the same time?