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The New Lifehacking #1 – Why You Should Stop Feeding Your Addiction to Tips

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The New Lifehacking #1 – Why You Should Stop Feeding Your Addiction to Tips

Anyone who has a serious commitment to better at least one area of their life needs to be careful about developing a tip-addiction.

We happen to live in an era in which we can get thousands of tips delivered to us in every single hour of every day. Thanks to the latest gadgets, we don’t even need to leave the sofa: we just pick up our tablets or remotes, and instantly conduct a successful search for our chosen channel of information. Within minutes, thousands of tips flood into our devices and within seconds we are able to start reading, listening, viewing, sharing and retweeting.

In the area of time management (which is actually self management at its core) the tips, tricks and shortcuts we find in this instant feed are mostly free. Some involve suggested behavior changes while others are recommendations for new apps, software and web services. News about gadgets, equipment and supplies is also included, much of which is intentionally shown to us in order to make a sale.

This stream of tips and channels will never go away, but as we flip through countless options it’s a good idea to ask ourselves what we are looking for. How do we search for new lifehacks? Where do we begin?

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If you’re like most people, you use a simple strategy and wander from link to link until something catches your eye. In doing so, you might try to see what everyone else is doing so you can join the crowd. Or, perhaps, you go to an authority site and based on the latest recommendation from an expert, you follow suit.

On you go… until you lose interest, or energy, and only then do you stop. The stuff you opted into, or purchased, shows up within seconds or hours and in the end you may find something useful—but usually not anything profound. (A new cover for your iPad is not a true improvement.)

The following day you sit down in your office and repeat the cycle, hoping, once again, to hit the jackpot and find the miracle tip that blows the lid off your productivity. It’s an addiction to interesting, new, fascinating tips, but is this elaborate, random Easter egg hunt the best way to change the quality of your life?

Why random lifehacks don’t work

In time management the answer turns out to be “No.”

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A week after I published my first book after a three year effort, I started receiving emails from a well-known Internet marketer promoting a program that would teach anyone how to write and publish their own book in a weekend. To my ear, hearing advertisements to teach us how to write a book in a weekend is like hearing promises to “Cut Your Pregnancy by 3 months! Guaranteed! Or Your Money Back!” Just. Not. Credible.

The same is true for ads that lead us you to believe that your productivity depends on the purchase of a shiny new $499 gadget.

Whether it’s being a great public speaker, mastering a musical instrument or becoming a great performer in a sport, the people who accomplish the best results know that it’s not about tips, tricks and shortcuts, and that equipment anyone can buy rarely makes a difference. They just don’t spent time trying on the sofa looking for random hacks that provide instant thrills.

Instead, according to experts such as Anders Ericsson, what’s required is deliberate practice in the areas in which we are the weakest. However, the problem in many areas such as time management is that there are hardly any tools developed to tell us how we’re doing, and where the weak spots lie. Given our knowledge of the power of metrics, and the fact that “you can’t improve what you can’t measure,” this places us in a difficult spot.

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Unfortunately, most authors and program developers respond by simplifying the problem; they just assume that everyone is a beginner. What’s the result of this assumption?

We—their consumers—wince. We feel agitated when we read articles, pick up books or take programs that implicitly assume that we are novices who are taking our first steps. The truth is that we aren’t: we already have time- and self-management systems in place that have worked for several years. Sometimes decades. We don’t want to be treated as if we are starting from scratch, like five-year-olds at their first music lesson.

What we really need

What we really want to know is “How am I doing now?”

We need more help to figure out what we are doing right, and what we are doing wrong. We can often do the rest ourselves, and figure out what we need to improve, and how how quickly. (That’s why we have Google.)

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That’s very different from chasing after tips, or pretending that we don’t know what we know, or acting as if we are starting all over again from the beginning. We can save hours of time and effort.

When we start by gaining some insight into our current system, we can compare it against those that include world-class practices, whether we consider ourselves to be beginners or experts. Perhaps this is the biggest tip of all: the new Lifehacking doesn’t start by becoming addicted to a search for new tips. It begins when we commit to gaining an in-depth, unique understanding of what we currently do.

How do we gain this understanding? That will be the subject of my next post here at Lifehack.org.

More by this author

Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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