Would You Trade Long Work Hours for Increased Efficiency and Creativity?

This is not a trick question.

In the U.S., we know that hard work pays off. The more we work, the more successful we will become, or so we believe. Our culture encourages us to work more and rest less. As a business leader, you are used to working even harder than many of the people around you; heavy lays the crown and so forth. You go a hundred miles an hour at work, you give direction, you motivate and inspire others around you. When people ask you how you are, the answer generally includes “busy.” It rarely seems appropriate that you take a break.

But you must. Some of the most successful CEOs in the world are those who work normal hours and take time for pleasure and leisure.

Take time for yourself to stare into space. Read a newspaper or magazine. Take your wife or husband to dinner and a movie. Go for a walk. If you can, drive somewhere for a weekend getaway.

There is one rule, though. You should refrain from checking your Blackberry or iPhone for e-mails or take a business call “just for a minute.” If you must check these devices, try to set a specific time when you will do so, and impose a time limit on how long you can engage with your device. Try to take the break seriously, and you will reap the benefits.

Not only will your relationship benefit (who likes to be left at a dinner table for a business call?), but so will your efficiency level and creativity. You may not realize it, but a lot of the work you do is incredibly imaginative work. I am not talking about ad designs or billboard development. Management, business strategy development and finance all require a lot of creativity – especially when it comes to finding solutions to complex challenges.

Grant yourself a break and you will gain it back in no time through increased efficiency, focus and creativity.

Though any break is better than no break at all, I would prefer that you make relaxation a routine activity. Put it on your calendar and make it non-negotiable to the extent that you can. Most of us tend to compromise personal time before compromising any other activity. This is understandable, but know that your long-term health requires you to live a successful and balanced life.

How do you add balance to your work life?

Old School Methods Yield Fresh Results

As I sat in front of my computer struggling to express exactly what I wanted to share with you today, I realized that I might be more successful if I tried writing the old fashioned way.

Thus, I broke out a pencil and paper, and instead of sitting in front of my computer, I changed up my environment and began to write. And the words flowed wonderfully.

They flowed so well, indeed, that I decided that what came out wasn’t best shared today – but you’ll get to enjoy it later in an alternate manifestation.

What I do want to share with you is the lesson my experience evoked: the value of changing up your environment when trying to accomplish something that doesn’t seem to be happening – especially when that something happens to require creativity.

This is actually something I do all the time, though the pencil/paper approach was a new take on it. I’ve spoken before of my predilection for the beach in Hilton Head in the context of the value of rest and relaxation. One of the great things I love about the beach is its effect as a creative lubricant. My job involves a great deal of creativity, and I often do some of my most creative work at the beach. The environment isn’t the usual suited, office-furnitured, formal one of every day business, and that allows my mind to loosen and get creative with solutions and opportunities.

I suggest you employ similar approaches in your own life and business. When you find yourself facing a tough situation, a complicated problem or a stalled out day, don’t keep spinning your wheels. Try changing up your tools and your environment. Try bringing fresh perspectives into your conversations. Just don’t do the same old thing if the same old thing isn’t getting you anywhere.

How do you vary things to get the creative juices flowing?