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?

Turnaround Your Time Management with New Email Skills, a Guest Post by Leslie Walden

Leslie Walden and Barbara Skutch Mays, creators of It’s Time to Get Organized, help individuals and businesses increase their efficiency and effectiveness. As they say, more productive, better organized people feel less stressed and gain a new sense of empowerment. It’s my pleasure to share their guest post with you about making more time for your business by becoming more efficient with your email.

We all know that being efficient saves time, but when considering changing your life to become more efficient, we have to ask ourselves two questions:

  1. How much time is really saved?
  2. Is it worth the effort to become a little more efficient?

We say, Yes!

But then again, we’re efficiency devotees.

Let’s take the #1 problem virtually every person in business contends with on a daily basis: managing email. Unless you have a timer in front of you, it’s easy to forget that time is always ticking by. Before you know it, you’ve spent far more time on your smart phone or computer than you’d intended while the day’s tasks go untouched.

What if you could reduce the time you spend on email by ten minutes a day? It doesn’t sound like much, so does it matter?

Perhaps not but, over a week’s time, 10 minutes a day adds up. By the end of the week, you’ve lost nearly an hour not reducing email by ten minutes a day.

A four week period is well over 3 hours that could have been spent performing meaningful activities that could help you reach your goals. That’s the equivalent of a morning’s worth of valuable time. Imagine getting an extra morning to be productive every month?

In one year, the opportunities are even more impressive. Altogether, a person gains an extra day and a half just by taking advantage of daily ten minute increments. If your marketing plan includes contacting new prospects, that’s a lot of new prospects that you might not have otherwise called.

With rewards this great, I hope you’re already wondering how to knock ten minutes from your daily email routine and use the “newly found” time to bring you closer to your goals.

There is no shortage of ways to learn to hone your email skills. Try any of these:

  • Sign up for an online class: Microsoft offers many free classes at different levels for various versions of Outlook. Each class provides an overview of what you will learn, the number of lessons and practice sessions, the estimated time the class will take, and specifically what you will know when you complete the class. Just go here.
  • Investigate sites such as About.com to answer questions and provide valuable information on using email more efficiently. Examples of topics: message priorities, scheduling time, handling tasks, tips for communicating effectively and staying on top of email. Where do you need guidance?
  • Find tutorials and webinars on YouTube. They’re short, and video makes it easy to follow the instructions. For example, watch this 5 minute video on taking your inbox to zero for Outlook 2010.

You’ll be amazed at the benefits of spending a few minutes every day upgrading your email skills.

With 2012 just around the corner, now is the perfect time to give it a try!

What kinds of organizational skills would benefit you and your business? Do you have any email tips to share with us?