How To Be Better, Not Busier: 3 Ideas We Love

While you are reading this, someone will send you a text or a DM or a Slack message. And you’re probably on the hook to deliver a brilliant solution to your boss’ biggest problem by EOD. Never mind everything that’s on your personal calendar.

Fact is, even if you get to the end of every item on your to-do list today, you could have done better.

Not more. Better.

At Lifeblue, we’re always looking for ways to be more creative, more efficient, more useful for our partners and our colleagues. We’ve found some inspiration lately from three big ideas, shared straight from our Slack channels.

Spoiler: We are about to make the case for boredom and learning to let go.

1. Allow yourself to be bored

Social norms tell us that boredom is bad, and as we multitask through our days, technology is an enabler. But our understanding of multitasking may be flawed. Studies have shown that we aren’t really doing multiple things at once; we’re switching from one task to another, depleting neural resources along the way.

In her April 2017 TED Talk (h/t J.D. Busch), Manoush Zomorodi made the case for intentionally being bored to spark the creative process. She consulted neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, and she learned that when our bodies go on autopilot, our brains get busy, solving nagging problems and connecting seemingly disparate ideas.

 

“I realized that I was never bored,” said Zomorodi, co-founder of Stable Genius Productions, a media company with a mission to help people navigate personal and global change. “And anyway, don’t only boring people get bored? But then I started to wonder, ‘What actually happens to us when we get bored?’”

2. Get better at prioritizing

Morten Hansen, a management professor at the University of California, Berkeley, found that people who are considered high achievers often work fewer hours than their counterparts. They’re not lazy; they’re just better at deciding how to spend their time.

In a conversation with Mel Magazine (h/t Caitlin Studley), the author of Great at Work outlined seven traits high performers have in common:

  1. They focus on only a few tasks.
  2. They create value.
  3. They’re always trying to learn.
  4. They have passion and purpose.
  5. They champion their ideas.
  6. They have meetings for only one purpose: to debate and unite.
  7. They don’t over-collaborate.

No. 2 on that list speaks to us a great deal. Hansen points out that creating value is different from hitting your goals: “If you’re just meeting goals that people don’t care about, and you’re just checking boxes, it’s only a matter of time before someone says, ‘We don’t need those boxes checked anymore,’ and you’re out of a job.”

3. Be energizing, not energetic

A great paradox exists in our work culture: To go faster, we may need to slow down.

In this Harvard Business Review article (h/t Brian Kowalczyk), executive coach Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg writes that putting our colleagues’ performance ahead of our own is the key to developing what recruiters call “executive maturity.”

An excerpt:

It may seem illogical, but the leap to a new growth curve begins by realizing that the recipe is not to take on more and speed up, but to slow down and let go of some of the issues that have been your driving forces: power, prestige, responsibility, recognition, or face-time.

“The talent phase in our careers tends to be profoundly self-centered, even narcissistic. If you need to move on from the first growth curve in your career, and want to take on more challenges, you need to exchange ego-drive for co-drive.

“Co-drive requires that you momentarily forget yourself — and instead focus on others. The shift involves an understanding that you have already proven yourself.”

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