In Part I of this article we examined the characteristics of Hard work and Smart work. Let us take a look at how to up the ante and level up to inspired work.
A great quote I found in Jeff Haden's article says "Great employees follow process. Remarkable employees find ways of making those processes better, not because they are expected to, but because they just can't help it."
While hard work and smart work have their measures of productivity, is it really possible to accurately measure the hours that went into creating a vision or idea? Inspirational works of art, music, drama seem to come into being as though by sheer magical. The aura and influence that truly inspirational ideas create are indeed described in terms like 'out of this world'. However, there is much truth behind Edison's words and these geniuses and inspired masters indeed are often toiling away and burning the candle at both ends before revealing the fruits of their labor onto a mesmerized world. There would be tons of reading and calculations which would have gone into creating the Eureka moment. What sets the genius apart from the hard worker and smart worker which enables him to perform inspired work?
Jeff Sutherland states in his blog that one can actually be more productive by working less! He quotes a Florida State University study which found that our bodies work in short sprints of 90 minutes. The study concluded from observing "elite musicians, artists and chess players that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take breaks in between sessions, and rarely work more than four and half hours in any given day."
Applied to the work place, this can be used to maximize productivity, creativity and innovation. In any typical day, whether you spend 8 hours at office or 16 hours, your actual productive hours will be rarely more than 5-6 hours when you get some work done. Point to note here is that checking your mails, attending calls, planning your holiday, catching up on your reading and filing reports to your boss does not count as work, just because you do it at your office desk. Work is what adds value to the organization in achieving its key goals. After removing these non-work activities if you still find yourself doing 5-6 hours of 'work work' in a day, you are a truly remarkable gem and a rarity indeed.
For those engaged in thought leadership or creative or strategic fields, the 90 minute sprint makes great sense. I find it effective to file away this category of work into my subconscious (and of course my notepad :)) and let it mull over while I get going with the routine. When the time comes, I find a lot of ideas accumulated on the subject and one just needs to sort them out, find the logical order and communicate them in a comprehensible manner. This can be often be achieved in the less than 90 minute sprint. On the contrary, working long hours on deadlines constantly, leads to sub-optimal work produced. We end up ignoring the mind's state of alertness or fatigue and relentlessly keep going against a dead end. The shorter sprint also brings focus in your work. The curse of creativity is that there are always too many ideas floating around your mind and you don't know which one to work on. The short period forces you to focus on what you can do now and here and this way you accomplish more with less.
This series of the blog was written in less than 90 minute work periods. :)