John’s Perspective: Unplug to Be More Productive
I’m a lucky man: I love what a do, and part of that is being on the road 3-5 weekdays (and sometimes weekend days), most weeks of the year, as I visit my amazing clients around the world. In addition to meeting and working with clients live, I also have projects for my organization, planning calls and preparation for upcoming clients, expense reports, and emails.
While it’s always tempting to catch up on (or get ahead) on projects late at night or on weekends or holidays, I try to avoid the urge. I’ve found that by avoiding overwork and taking the time to truly “unplug,” I’m much more productive in my working hours.
Being rested helps me get more done during the workday
There was a time in my career when I decided that by staying up very late and waking up very early, I would be more productive. While I was more productive for the first 2 weeks, the strategy soon backfired. I became exhausted during the daytime hours, accomplishing less than I normally would, and downing cups of coffee to stay alert. I realized that whatever minimal amount of work I was able to sleepily wade through in the late night/early morning hours wasn’t worth how unproductive I had become during the normal workday. I cut out regularly doing late night work and focused on catching up on sleep. I quickly returned to my energetic daytime self and found that I was able to accomplish more in a normal workday if I was rested, then in a much longer workday when I was exhausted.
I invest my leisure time in activities that will energize me.
I try to use my leisure time wisely, on activities which will energize me. While what energizes a person varies – it could be anything from a nap, video games, a good book, or a long run – for me, it is spending time with my family. Nothing puts me in a better mood and gives me a passionate, positive outlook on life like being with the ones I love the most. Identifying what activity or activities will energize you will ensure that you’re spending your few precious hours of leisure time doing a worthwhile activity. Zoning out in front of the TV or surfing the internet are only worthwhile if they are enjoyable and energizing – not if they are mindless time sucks.
Use all your PTO and use it in a way that will stress you out the least.
I always read statistics about how Americans tend to not use all their PTO every year – but trust me, it’s much better for your health (and your productivity!) if you do use it. And you can be creative as to how you use it. It stresses some people out to go on vacations that are a week or longer, because of all the preparation needed at work to prepare their team for their absence. Consider taking shorter vacations to refresh, such as taking the occasional Friday or Monday off, for a long weekend. Chances are, taking a three or four day weekend won’t require substantial work (or personal) preparation on your part and might even allow you to have more travel flexibility for better fares.