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Last Updated on December 15, 2017

Are You Using Time Differently In The Knowledge Economy?

Are You Using Time Differently In The Knowledge Economy?

The saying used to be that “time is money,” with the thinking going that putting in more time will guarantee good results. A common example of this is the 10,000 hour idea put forth by Malcolm Gladwell and others. In short: if you want to master something, you need 10,000 hours of repetition at it. This would directly tie “time” (the hours) to “success” (mastery), but unfortunately, the 10,000 hour theory has been debunked by many.

Here’s a micro example: sometimes, a person will study for days and days (time) for a test, then do poorly (no success) on the test. How is this possible?

It is because results and success have less to do with time, and more to do with how productively you’re using the time — namely, how much attention you’re giving to receiving information and applying it appropriately.

The history of time

In the then agriculture-driven economy, time management wasn’t so important. Most people spent their days farming or tending to animals. Why would anything really need to be tracked, per se?

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Soon, the Industrial Revolution moved more people off farms and into factories. Now there was a reason to track time. The evolution of the 40 hour work week (around the mid-1920s) made time a huge commodity. Time was, essentially, the new money. To get paid your hourly wages (actual money), you had to track time. Your value was quite literally tied to the hours you put in.

    The current economy has been described often as “The Knowledge Economy.” It’s much less about the number of hours put in (although people still work a lot), and much more about the amount of knowledge you can acquire and transform into something better.

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      The problem: many management approaches still are focused on the time side. Consider the idea of “seat time.” Most places in the first world are WiFi-enabled, so many Knowledge Economy workers can work from anywhere. They can access emails and files via the cloud. But lots of bosses are obsessed with “seat time,” or seeing the employees physically in a place near them. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s rooted in the “time is money” economy.

      Right now, many companies are focused more on employees being in a specific place for a specific period of time, instead of how to increase focus, energy, and delivery of high-impact tasks. And what’s worse: the “time is money” attitude stresses out employees majorly.

      Manage your energy and attention, not your time

      For as long as we can predict, time will continue to tick on at the same rate, but what actually fluctuates on a day-to-day basis is how much energy and attention you have — in the Knowledge Economy, that’s what makes or breaks how productive you are, and more important, it’s something you can actually control.

      Time is a necessity of work and of nature, but as far as productivity is concerned, it should merely be the backdrop against which you work.

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      Consider the sheer idea of the 9-to-5 workday. Today, when productivity is about what you accomplish and not how much you produce, a nine-to-five workday makes as much sense as diligently tracking your time out on the farm. After all, what if your Biological Prime Time falls when you’re not working, and you have the most energy from 6 to 9 a.m., or from 7 to 11 p.m.? Or what if you have trouble focusing because you’re trying to multitask on a million things at once? Or what if you’re constantly bombarded by distractions and interruptions?

      People — all workers — are different. And if the goal is productive output, we need to understand and respect that.

      When we schedule time for something, what we’re actually doing is simply deciding when we will invest our attention and energy into the task. That’s where time management should fit into the productivity equation. Managing your time becomes important only after you understand how much energy and focus you will have throughout the day and define what you want to accomplish.

      It’s much less about the time involved, and much more about the output.

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        So how can we work less and get more? 

        If your workplace has flexible working hours, make use of that. Have enough rest and come in ready to work so that you are at your optimum performance. During the day, take short breaks to disconnect. The optimal human ratio for work is 52 minutes on, 17 minutes off. 

        Schedule, but schedule differently: I schedule my entire day, and I’ve found that doing so makes me incredibly productive—especially when I form a strong intention about what I’m going to get done. But I only ever plan out my day after I account for how much attention and energy I will have, and most important, what I intend to accomplish.

        Consider “focus days” where your entire focus is high-level, big projects and new learning. Block your calendar out so no one can throw meetings on it and stir up distractions.

        Remember that the goal of the Knowledge Economy is different from the goal of the initial Industrial Economy. Now your time needs to be productive, not just a set amount of hours, so move towards that.

        Featured photo credit: http://www.theindependentbd.com/printversion/details/73926 via theindependentbd.com

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        Brian Lee

        Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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        Last Updated on September 17, 2018

        How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

        How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

        Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

        Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

        All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

        Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

        How bad really is multitasking?

        It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

        Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

        This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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        We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

        So what to do about it?

        Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

        Now, forget about how to multitask!

        Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

        1. Get enough rest

        When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

        This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

        When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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        2. Plan your day

        When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

        When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

        Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

        3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

        I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

        I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

        Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

        4. When at your desk, do work

        We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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        Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

        5. Learn to say no

        Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

        Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

        By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

        6. Turn off notifications on your computer

        For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

        Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

        7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

        Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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        You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

        The bottom line

        Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

        Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

        Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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