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It Is Magically Possible To Work Less And Still Do More

It Is Magically Possible To Work Less And Still Do More

Working long hours is pretty common these days. If your Monday to Friday feels like a constant slog of work and projects with no real time for a breather, is this because you have too much work or is it because you’re not using your time efficiently?

It’s easy to spend too much time perfecting something or equally not focusing enough so you end up dragging the task out more than you should. So does working longer hours mean you’re being productive and getting lots done? The answer is most likely no. When you work consistently long hours or spend too much time on a task, it’s usually a sign that you actually just have too much to do. More importantly, it’s a sign you’re not spending your time, energy and attention wisely.

The Myth About Working More to Get More Done

Our lives are governed by the jobs, tasks and projects we set ourselves or set by our work environment. When you feel like the amount of stuff you need to get done gets bigger, our natural reaction is to work longer on them in order to get them completed.

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How many times have you heard someone tell you in an exasperated fashion that they spent 9am-9pm at the office working on something? Our reply is usually one of awe in terms of how hardworking they must be. But are they really? Productivity is heard to measure but if one person spent 2 hours on a task that someone else could have completed in half an hour, it’s more a case of having stretched out the task unnecessarily.

Working more to get more done only drains you of your energy both physically and mentally in the long run and potentially turns you into a ‘workaholic’. This leads to you not optimally producing the results you need and could end up with feelings of failure, demotivation and burnout.

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    What it Really Means to Work Long Hours

    While working long hours may seem the best way to get things done, in practice it means you actually have less time to recharge and refocus – two things that are vital for lessening stress and gaining more energy. When we have a lot to do, we often focus on the amount of time we invest in completing necessary tasks but instead we should be paying attention to how much energy and focus we’re investing.

      Time is quite the illusion when it comes to getting things done. The more time you spend on work, the more that the minute-by-minute urgency lessens. Yet when we have a limited amount of time, the more we’re forced to focus and use our energy optimally in order to get it done. Therefore, the more you control how much time you spend on a task, the more you can control the energy in an efficient way to get it done. An example of this could be those moments when you’d leave those college assignments to the last minute – that time limited pressure probably caused you to channel a larger amount of energy over a shorter period and so you got it done relatively much quicker than usual.

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      The problem that long hours brings, is that feeling of productivity. Obviously productivity is a good thing but as Chris Bailey explains in his book The Productivity Project, experiments he conducted lead him to find that he felt much more productive working long hours than in shorter bursts even though he was getting the same amount of work done.

      This only proves that busyness doesn’t always equal optimal productivity. In fact, productivity is an elusive idea. It’s hard to truly know how much we accomplish each day yet we tend to measure this according to how busy we were. However, it’s seldom accurate and can cause us to believe we’ve achieved more than we potentially could have given a more short and focused approach.

      The ‘Less is More’ Approach to Optimal Productivity

      First and foremost, when it comes to important tasks less is more! And by this I mean the amount of time you spend on getting the tasks done. When you do this, a few significant things will happen.

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      • Setting a deadline for yourself motivates you to expend more energy and focus in a shorter amount of time.
      • You create a needed urgency around the task.
      • You eliminate many of the procrastination triggers that can form over long periods. This is because you’re creating structure which helps stop the mind getting bored, frustrated and distracted.

      Ideally, you should try to become more mindful of your working patterns and level of productivity. As a start, take note of your habits and list what tasks you’ve fully completed in a day. Write done how much time it took you to complete each task and use it to reflect on why some tasks took longer than others. Is there a way you could have spent less time completing a task? How could you improve this?

      One helpful method for keeping note of the amount of time you spend on things, is a productivity tracking app. These automatically keep track of your time spent working on various tasks all on your desktop, laptop or mobile device.

      Setting deadline reminders for yourself is another way to keep yourself on track and motivate you to spend your energy wisely in shorter, more focused bursts.

      So remember to work smart not work hard. Using our minds optimally means shortening the periods of time we need to concentrate. Don’t get sucked in to believing all those long hours mean you’ve been extra productive. Instead start becoming more mindful of how to get things done quicker with equal efficiency. This will transform your life and free up more time for living.

      Featured photo credit: Lisa Fotios via pexels.com

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on June 4, 2020

      Why Perspective Taking Is an Essential Skill for Success

      Why Perspective Taking Is an Essential Skill for Success

      Google the term “essential skills for success” and you’ll get over 490 million results, with most of them consisting of lists. The top 5 essential skills for success, the 10 essential skills for success, etc. And in most of these lists, perspective taking isn’t in there. I think that this is a big mistake.

      Perspective taking is an essential skill in almost all aspects of business. From sales and marketing, to negotiations and employee management, perspective taking is a key component for a leader’s success.

      What Is Perspective Taking?

      Perspective taking is the ability to take on someone else’s point of view when thinking. It’s a simple concept, and it’s something that most of us do all the time, mostly without even thinking about it.

      One study analyzed the way in which people gave directions to a landmark. Not surprisingly, the directions they gave depended on whether the person asking was perceived as being out of town or a local. Out of towners were given much more detailed directions because the person assumed that they were less familiar with local landmarks and how to navigate the city. Locals were assumed to know the general layout of the city and how to navigate within it.[1]

      We are always collecting data about other people’s state of mind through their behaviors, verbal, and non-verbal cues. If someone has tears in their eyes, we assume they are upset. We understand that hyperventilation, fast talking, and anxiety can mean that the person is panicked. Their tone of voice can convey anger, sympathy or happiness. These are all social cues that we instinctively process and use to formulate socially acceptable responses.

      For example, if a friend expresses sadness because their football team lost, then a joke may be an appropriate way to snap them out of it. But if they are sad because a family member has just died, showing them support is going to be a better response.

      You may be reading this and saying to yourself that perspective taking is just another term for empathy; but there are very distinct and important differences, especially in a business setting.

      Empathy Vs. Perspective Taking

      Empathy is the ability to take on and relate to someone else’s feeling or emotions. Perspective taking removes all the emotional aspects and is strictly concerned with how the other person perceives a situation. This is a very important distinction in a professional setting.

      Studies have shown that people who negotiate with empathy end up giving away more and getting less than people who negotiate through perspective taking.

      Perspective taking, according to a study published in the April 2008 issue of Psychological Science, involves understanding and anticipating an opponent’s interests, thoughts, and likely behaviors, whereas empathy focuses mostly on sympathy and compassion for another.[2]

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      “Perspective takers are able to step outside the constraints of their own immediate, biased frames of reference… Empathy, however, leads individuals to violate norms of equity and equality and to provide preferential treatments.”

      In general, perspective taking works better in business settings, and empathy works better in a social setting.

      How to Develop Perspectives

      Perspective taking is, to some degree, an innate human characteristic. Most of us can understand when someone is in a bad mood, angry, or excited, and we can anticipate their behaviors based on those factors.

      It’s fair to note that there is a subgroup of people who have social deficits that can make perspective taking more difficult or even impossible (some personality disorders, autism, etc.), but for the most part, perspective taking is an innate ability that can be sharpened and honed as a skill.

      Try this experiment:

      With your dominant hand snap your fingers for 5 times. Now with the other hand, trace the capital letter E on your forehead. This little trick is designed to measure how well you take other people’s perspectives into account.

      If your E faced the left side of your body, it would be easy to read from someones else’s perspective. If it faced the right side of your body, it would be easy for you to read. It’s certainly not definitive, but a fun little exercise.

      Now, for those of you whose “E” faced the right side of your body (full disclosure, I’m included), here are some ways to develop your perspective taking skills:

      • Consciously put aside your feelings so that you can concentrate only on the other person’s perspective.
      • Do not approach the situation with a “mission” mindset. Always approach with curiosity: “What is it that makes them to act this way?”
      • Use open ended questions that can help you draw out the interests and motivation that the person may not be verbalizing.
      • Be clear about your own position and the weaknesses it has.
      • Remove any personal intentions you may have so as not to project them on the other person.
      • Use what you know about the person, their background, their mood, their intentions and expectations. Imagine how they are seeing the current situation.
      • Once you have an understanding of their perspective, try to anticipate what their reaction will be so that you can adjust your responses in order to move them towards the outcome you desire.
      • Validate their position (you don’t have to agree with it) by paraphrasing back to them what you think their position is.
      • Use the mirroring technique[3], mimicking movements, postures, and facial expressions to put them at ease and create a connection.

      Perspective Taking and Personality Types

      When we talk about perspective taking, the more information we have about someone, the better. Understanding the basic personality types (in business) will help you to understand another’s perspective and the best way to interact with them.

      Analytical Personalities

      These people are orderly, precise, and tend to be “by the book” procedurally. They are often described as low key, quiet, and reserved.

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      Their offices are often sparse with few plants or pictures. They can be dry and impersonal when interacting with others.

      How to Approach Them

      Analytical personality types tend to be uncomfortable with small talk and personal interactions. Be sure to give them their space. They respond to evidence-based arguments and like facts. Be prepared to make logical arguments that can be backed up with data.

      Driver Personalities

      Someone with a driver personality will be very result-oriented. They tend to be very high energy, impatient, and controlling.

      Their offices can reflect their personality with large desks and clocks that are strategically placed and only visible to them. Their walls are often decorated with awards and pictures of famous or important people.

      When interacting with them, they can come off as loud and aggressive.

      How to Approach Them

      Because drivers are result-oriented, keep small talk to a minimum. Don’t be afraid to match their assertiveness, but don’t try to dominate them. Driver personalities like to have more than one option to choose from.

      Amiable Personalities

      These are the proverbial team players. They typically have excellent social skills and are good listeners.

      When interacting with an amiable personality, they come off as warm, caring, and relaxed. They tend to dress and decorate their offices with bright colors that project positive energy.

      How to Approach Them

      You should approach the amiable personality on an emotional level. They like small talk and the ability to connect on a more personal level. They tend to be noncommittal and make slower, more contemplative decisions. They are emotional decision makers and can be very loyal customers.

      Expressive Personalities

      These people are the life of the party! They’re outgoing, not afraid of the limelight, and have a positive outlook on everything. Expressive personalities tend to be very high energy and very enthusiastic about goals.

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      Their offices tend to be brightly decorated, and it’s not unusual for a lot of clutter to accumulate. They are often seen dressing more flamboyantly and wearing a lot of jewelry and accessories.

      When interacting with them, they will speak quickly using a lot of hand gestures, jokes, and stories to get their point across.

      How to Approach Them

      Expressive personalities react well to enthusiasm and fun. It’s important to listen to them closely as their stories and jokes will let you know where they are coming from. They respond well to the use of vibrant language and subjective statements (I feel, I think, etc.). Don’t argue with an expressive personality and try to close the sale quickly as they can make decisions quickly.

      Using Perspective Taking to Succeed at Work

      When you break it down, almost every aspect of business involves an element of negotiation. In sales, you are negotiating with customers, and with employees the negotiations can be about compensation and, internally, sales, marketing, accounting and human resources all need to negotiate amongst themselves.

      By honing your perspective taking skills, you are much more likely to come up with solutions that are acceptable to all parties.

      For example, a client balks at buying your latest product because it’s too expensive, and your bosses won’t let you discount it because it the latest and greatest. Try putting aside your interest in making the sale so you can better understand the perspectives of both sides.

      Your bosses are afraid that if they lower the price, it will set a precedent and future customers will demand the same price. The customer’s objection is that they can’t afford it because they don’t have the money in their budget.

      Now that you have taken your own interests out of the equation, you can concentrate on finding a solution that is acceptable to both parties. It may be that the customer doesn’t have the money in this quarter’s budget, but next quarter they will. You and your bosses still want to see the sale in this quarter, though. This is your opportunity to really shine.

      There are several possible solutions that could be acceptable to both parties:

      • “Book” the sale this quarter and accept payment in the next quarter.
      • Book the sale now with 50% down and 50% next quarter.
      • See if management is willing to extend credit and accept monthly payments.
      • Use an outside funding source as an option for the customer.
      • Protect the customer from any planned price increases by getting a commitment today.

      The solution may lie in any one of these, a combination of them, or in something completely different. It’s all dependent on the perspectives and motivations of each party and your ability to accurately assess them.

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      The Down Side of Perspective Taking

      We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of perspective taking and how you can use it to become more successful in your career. However, just like everything else, there is a potential down side that you should be aware of.

      Accuracy

      Most people are not very good at gauging their own abilities. This is especially true with perspective taking.

      In fact, a study was conducted with intimate couples who (presumably) knew each other very well. When asked how their partner would respond to a question, participants were right only about 35% of the time.

      If a 35% accuracy rate comes from people who know each other intimately, you can imagine the error rate for those in a business setting.

      Inaccurate Information

      There’s an old computer programming term that goes by the initials GIGO that stands for garbage in, garbage out. That is to say that if your inputs (knowledge, assumptions and data) are bad, your outcomes are likely to be bad as well. Therefore, if you’re basing your actions on inaccurate information, you’re much less likely to achieve a positive outcome.

      People will give you inaccurate information for a number of reasons. The person may not understand what their own motivations are, they may intentionally keep their motivations secret in order to gain an advantage, or they just don’t have the self-awareness to reflect on their own motivations.

      Incomplete Information

      There are virtually an unlimited number of factors that can affect a person’s perspective, and it’s just plain impossible to know them all. Some factors are deeply ingrained from childhood.

      If someone was raised in a strict setting, they may have a very black and white view of things. Other factors are more transitory. For example, if they got yelled at by their boss this morning, their mood will change, shifting their perspective temporarily. These are all factors that influence a person’s perspective.

      Final Thoughts

      While not perfect, perspective taking is an essential skill for success in many areas of life, from a chess match to negotiating geopolitical treaties.

      By taking yourself out of the equation, the motivations of your opponent become clearer. Furthermore, by understanding the other side’s true motivations, you’re in a better position to anticipate their responses and offer them an acceptable compromise.

      With the use of perspective taking, all parties can walk away from a negotiation feeling satisfied. This type of win-win scenario lays a good foundation for continued partnerships and sales. It also doesn’t hurt that if you’re the one doing the perspective taking, you’re likely to end up with a better outcome.

      More Tips on Perspective Taking

      Featured photo credit: Anika Huizinga via unsplash.com

      Reference

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