How to work smarter, not harder

stressI’m currently working with two companies that have undertaken very difficult projects with extremely tight timelines. Both have started to descend—and descend is the right word—into a frenzy close to outright panic. The more they perceive that they are in trouble (there is a lot at stake), the more they increase their pace. As an observer, I can see their perspectives narrowing to tunnel vision. They lose sight of their purpose and instead try to do more tasks faster. This is the essence of working harder, but working dumber. The faster they go, the more stressed they become, the more mistakes they make—and they are beginning to make lots of mistakes. The rising number of mistakes, of course, compounds the stress. Both companies decided to use our program, though late in the process. We have found that the solution to this issue is completely counterintuitive for most people and organizations. The time that you feel overwhelmed is the time that you need to step back and reflect. That means working smarter. We have been able to guide people into two actions that really matter:

  1. Revisit your purpose. This gives people a larger context for what they are trying to do.
  2. Systematically practice and reflect on the defined learning tasks. Rigorously do what the Stars said to do, talk about it in the learning groups, and most importantly, journal about what is learned.
Doing these things—focusing on purpose and reflective learning—create a change in brain chemistry that suppresses anxiety and stress. And they are the core of working smarter, not panic-driven and working harder.]]>

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