Friday AM July 30th, 2010

Demand is overwhelming people in the workplace, forcing them to operate the same way that computers do; running continuously and at high speeds, running multiple programs at the same time. But one author says that doesn’t work with humans. Ed Mayberry reports.

Working endless hours and multitasking is causing a personal energy crisis in the workplace, according to Tony Schwartz. In his book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Schwartz says greater work performance can be achieved by systematically renewing your energy.

The ultradian rhythm is one that operates in 90-minute cycles throughout the day. You move from a high state of energy and arousal progressively down into a state of fatigue. The reason we don’t notice it is because we have ways of artificially overriding it–coffee, sugar and most important and common, our own stress hormones. We have a reservoir of energy and we’re slowly burning it down over the course of a day instead of regularly renewing it.

Schwartz says sufficient sleep should be a priority, as well as exercise and proper nutrition. He also suggests getting a handle on technology–log off your email for at least an hour a day, and devote your full attention to a significant task.

The problem that results is that you are giving part of your attention to many things. The highest quality of work comes from deeply absorbing yourself. We know that from watching people who are really good. We don’t give ourselves that opportunity. In fact, we train ourselves to be distractable. If you shift your attention from what you’re doing to something else like an email that comes into your inbox, you’ll in crease the amount of time it takes to finish the initial task by an average of 25 percent.

Schwartz says when you push people beyond their limits, mistakes and lower quality are inevitable.

Ed Mayberry, KUHF News.

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