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Do You Actually Work 40+ Hours?

Do You Actually Work 40+ Hours?

    The last few months, I’ve been wondering about something. I am self-employed. I work in an office by myself. No one watches me or looks over my shoulder. I work flexible hours.  Do those hours really add up to 40 or more a week?

    My Productivity Experiment

    I did an experiment in which I calculated all of the hours I was actually working (i.e. writing, attending phone meetings, pursuing leads, responding to business-related e-mails) versus doing personal tasks or surfing the Internet.

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    It turns out that I do indeed work 40 or more hours a week, but those hours aren’t organized in 5, 8-hour chunks like the hours of traditional employees. Rather, I am able to complete several administrative and business development tasks for my business in the morning and do heavy lifting writing in the late afternoon, when my energy level is highest.

    Especially if I’m sitting at my computer the whole time, I definitely lose steam between 11AM and 3PM, and again between 6PM and 9PM. But it’s not uncommon for me to continue working with all cylinders firing after my children are in bed.

    9 to 5 as inefficient?

    Even though I’m pretty efficient overall, my rate of efficiency during the “traditional” 9 to 5 work day is not that great. And yet I suspect I’m not alone. I don’t think most employers would be thrilled that people are tooling around on social media for hours every work day, but this is common and part of being human.

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    Human beings only have the ability to focus intensely for a few hours at a time, at which point our energy slackens and we switch to an activity that requires less brain power. In the days when most of us worked in the fields or in factories, it didn’t matter if we were able to concentrate because so much of the work was rote. But a great deal of today’s work relies on creativity, analytical ability, and strategic thinking, and for that, we need to be sharp.

    Long Breaks for the Self-Employed

    Everyone’s productivity cycle is different, and as a result of my research, I’m learning how to manage mine. After working for a few hours in the morning, I go to the gym, run errands, grab lunch outside, or take a nap during my low energy time in the early afternoon. I write like a fiend in the late afternoon and continue through the early evening, and then, after a two hour break engaging with my kids and having dinner with my husband, I’ll sit down at the computer and finish a project or catch up on e-mails.

    Unfortunately, if you’re employed in a traditional business environment, you can’t have a schedule like a self-employed person. You are expected to work productively for 8 hours straight, and at some point during this long stretch, you are likely kidding yourself.  Coffee can only do so much. The typical office culture does not allow you to recoup your energy in an effective way, so you sit at your desk clicking mindlessly or staring into space. This isn’t good for anyone.

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    The Solution for the Average Employee

    Given that productivity cycles vary by individual, knowledge workers are most effective if they set their own hours and leave the workspace to do something else when their energy depletes. Thanks to technology, being tied into the business from home 24/7 is now feasible.

    However, I’m a realist, and I don’t think the majority of workplaces are ready to employ telecommuting on a grand scale (although I can see this happening in the next 10 years).  What employers can do is encourage flex-time. Let your people come and go as they please provided the work is getting done with great results.

    Get them up and away from their desks by setting up fitness and recreation programs onsite or nearby, and create a culture where eating meals is a social and/or networking activity instead of yet another thing to be done in front of the computer. When people are permitted to work when they feel their best, productivity will improve across the board.

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    (Photo credit: Image of business documents on workplace via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 14, 2018

    Don’t Think You’re a Creative Person? You Can Definitely Change That

    Don’t Think You’re a Creative Person? You Can Definitely Change That

    Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences?

    Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent, whereby only a special group of people are inherently creative–everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. But, this is far from the truth!

    So what is creativity?

    Everyone Can Be Creative!

    The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so?

    You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Creativity isn’t just about making art or ‘thinking out of the box’. Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems.

    So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.

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    Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. You have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

    How Creativity Really Works

    Let me break another misconception about creativity — which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original.

    Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.

    From this perspective, you can see lots of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by certain styles of music, instruments and rhythms to write a new song.

    All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

    Creativity Needs an Intention

    Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state.

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    Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question:

    “What problem are you trying to solve?”

    Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles.

    Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity.

    But to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain, Right and Left, which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too.

    This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison.

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    For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus.

    And, when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

    Creativity is a Skill

    At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.

    A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test.

    A skill can also be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative!

    If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things.

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    Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

    Start Connecting the Dots!

    Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.

    So if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, simply subscribe to our newsletter today. In it, you’ll find out how to make use of crucial skills that will push you towards a life transformation– one that you never thought possible. Your personal growth is our commitment.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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