One of the aspects of excellence that we at Meta are particularly interested in at the moment is the concept of working smarter not harder – in fact, we are adopting it as our theme for the website this year. The phrase has been around for many years, first appearing in business ‘speak’ when the trend became to flatten structures and reduce staffing. Yet obviously, it has stayed mainly as a concept rather than a reality, since most people are working harder and longer than they ever have.
So what does working smarter really mean? There are numerous elements to it, which we will be looking at over the coming months. In essence, it means to work with your natural flow rather than against it. That natural flow is how we are at our most effective – we even have the phrase ‘being in the flow’, so we obviously know this at some level.
Yet we have learnt to treat ourselves as if we were machines, mechanically going through our tasks, and ignoring all the signs that this doesn’t really work for us – exhaustion, stress, depression, chronic illness and, at best, not being at our optimum. We are not machines – that is our strength! We have emotion, intuition and intelligence, which set us apart. We also have a natural ebb and flow, physically, mentally and emotionally. And when we work with our own natural flow, we can achieve miracles!
If we recognise that we do not run at a consistent pace, we can begin to work smarter. We are still designed physically in the same way we were when we were hunter-gatherers. Our bodies and minds respond best to periods of intense activity – the hunting and gathering – followed by a rest period – feasting, laughing together, resting. OK, I know that life isn’t like that now, but if we cater to some extent for that natural rhythm, this wonderful adaptable creature called a human being responds by becoming more effective and less exhausted. By the way, we are called human beings, not human doings!!
Because we have become so used to driving ourselves on, we don’t even notice that we have become less effective until we have reached the stage of non-functioning most of the time, and we even accept that as normal. It isn’t! Watch smaller children, left to their own devices. They are still working to their natural rhythm, being fully engaged and then knowing when to slow down or rest, and running about a lot, then doing something quiet. And if we allow them to continue their pattern, they seem to have boundless energy! We could be the same – it’s natural!
So, to begin with, just start noticing when you have pushed yourself on too far: are you just staring at your computer? Are you no longer hearing what someone is saying to you? Have you read that same line of that email over and over? Does getting dinner seem like a huge task ahead of you? Stop, sit quietly, or go for a bit of a walk, and allow yourself a little recovery time. You’ll be surprised by what a difference it makes!
In the coming months we’ll be doing some more blogs on specific ways in which you can work smarter not harder in the workplace, why? Because right now you are working probably harder than you ever have, and we’d like to help! At Meta we think its time to stop and take a fresh approach to working and we’d like to help support you in making that transition.