Shorter working hours – could they make you more productive?

Now the clocks in the UK have been moved back an hour to make it lighter in the mornings and darker in the early evening, I’m sure I’m not the only one whose body clock has had a bit of trouble re-setting itself.

This morning my eye was drawn to an article on today’s BBC news pages (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34677949) , which discusses the success of a move in Sweden to reduce people’s working hours to six a day, hopefully resulting in a better work/life balance, and, thus far, the results seem to be promising. In the main, workers in businesses taking part in the experiment start work at 8:30am and finish at 3:30pm, having taken a full hour lunch break. This means that they have extra time for their own pursuits during the late afternoon daylight.

Does this impact on productivity and do they get through the same amount of work? One boss is quoted as saying “”It’s difficult to concentrate at work for eight hours, but with six hours you can be more focused and get things done more quickly” and workers are asked to keep away from social media and personal phone calls and so on during their work hours.

Whilst this mode of working could be difficult for academics, the principle of focus wouldn’t be difficult to emulate, probably with positive results. What do you think? Could you focus more to complete your day’s targets in less time and reward yourself with even one hour to take a walk, do some thinking or even have some lunch!

 

A productivity tool for you…

I’m sure many of you will have come across the Pomodoro Technique (™) as a means of maintaining focus and getting stuff done, but if not, here’s how to get started.

The technique was, I discover from this Wikipedia article, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and it involves working in a very focussed way with a timer running for a period of time – in this case, twenty five minutes – then taking a short break to rest the eyes and the brain – in this case five minutes. After a number of work sessions, you take a slightly longer break.

I first discovered it when I was tasked with a horrible job (which shouldn’t have been mine anyway!) and wanted to get it done as fast and painlessly as possible. I originally set out to bash away at it until it was done, but I found I was losing the will to live and making stupid mistakes after about forty minutes. That was when I remembered Pomodoro. I had a tomato shaped kitchen timer which I used daily to control the length of briefings (I’ll describe that in a different post) and since ‘pomodoro’ is Italian for tomato (and, I now discover, was what Cirillo used), I used that. It worked well for me and I hope it may do so for you too.

If you don’t have a mechanical timer, your search engine of choice will provide you with lots of links to places where you can download Pomodoro timer apps for your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. There is of course the danger that you will spend so much time on productivity techniques that you are still no more productive, but I’m sure that couldn’t happen to you… could it!

How can you make learning stick when returning to work from a training course?

I came across an interesting article today which contains a link to a learning strategy that you may find practical to use. It’s by Martin Sandbrook, who says:

“How often have you been fired up by something you have learned on a development programme? You return to work the day after the course all ready to implement your new learning. Within hours, business as usual has swamped your resolve. You mention your idea to a colleague and she just rolls her eyes and says “just been on a course have you?”

Recently I was invited to facilitate the final session of a leadership development programme. The participants had been offered some radical new ideas and were being asked to make significant changes in their behaviour when they returned to work. I suggested that I teach them about ‘Action Experiment’, so that they could identify a single simple action, one which they would feel confident to actually do, and one which they would see as the start of a changed pattern in their approach to leadership.”

The blog post is continued here: http://www.schumacherinstitute.org.uk/how-can-you-make-learning-stick-when-returning-to-work-from-a-training-course/

And this is the system he proposes: Action Experiment

What is coaching?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines coaching as follows:

“Coaching targets high performance and improvement at work and usually focuses on specific skills and goals, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s personal attributes (such as social interaction or confidence). The process typically lasts for a relatively short period.

Although there is a lack of agreement among coaching professionals about precise definitions, the following are some generally agreed characteristics of coaching in organisations:

  • It is essentially a non-directive form of development, though this is not a hard and fast rule.
  • It focuses on improving performance and developing individuals’ skills.
  • Personal issues may be discussed but the emphasis is on performance at work.
  • Coaching activities have both organisational and individual goals.
  • It provides people with feedback on both their strengths and their weaknesses.
  • It is a skilled activity, which should be delivered by people who are trained to do so.”

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) define coaching as:

“an ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal
and professional lives. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning,
improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life …..in each meeting, the
client chooses the focus of conversation, while the coach listens and contributes
observations and questions. This interaction creates clarity and moves the client into
action. Coaching accelerates the client’s progress by providing greater focus and
awareness of choice. Coaching concentrates on where clients are today and what they
are willing to do to get to where they want to be tomorrow”

These are the contexts within which I offer coaching in HE.

Coaching is not about the past – it’s about the future.