Have you planned for productivity (output) or hard work (input)?

Relaxing for success.

Relaxing for success.

In previous blogs  (How is your team’s productivity? and Is your output as high as it could be?we discussed how important it is to decrease effort levels in order to maximise productivity and we discussed pace as a tool for individualising your approach.

Let’s take that a step further and talk about planning adequate recovery time as an important part of your productivity plan.

Let’s think about how many people work over the course of a year.  Many people work in a way that maximises their effort most of the year – regardless of what is going on at work.  They may find that they get sick or burn out or need a holiday (many people get sick on the first few days of their holidays) so their effort drops off quickly and then they pick it up again and go hard until the next crash.  Similar to the below diagram:



Unfortunately while they maintain a high effort their productivity is actually in decline over that time which means they spend a large amount of their year with their effort higher than their productivity as follows:


This is a fast path to burnout and doesn’t inspire people to want to work with you for extended periods.   It’s usually a very quick way to result in staff turnover.  And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the costs to the business of hiring and training new staff.

Let’s now think athletic principles of maximising productivity.  In this case athletes know that they just can’t train really heavy every single day of the year.  (Note that their training schedules may look heavy to us mere mortals but in actual fact they are mixing up their training to incorporate lighter training and recovery periods.)

Their effort vs productivity schedule looks more like this:



As you can see – the athletes actually reduce their effort and make sure they recover as they know it is an important part of their overall performance.  They know that if you’ve had a really hard running session one day and you try to do the same thing the next day, it will feel as though they are training way harder and will have a higher risk of injuring themselves.

All athletes know that one day of rest is far more productive than being unable to train for the next 7 months with a torn Achilles tendon.

Again, it’s the same principle in the workplace.  If you are effectively “running on dead legs” at work, your productivity will decline.  And that could be the least of your worries.  You will also have a far higher risk of experiencing stress and all those effects that come with it.  For example – the same hormone, cortisol, which fights stress also fights cancer causing cells – and it doesn’t multi-task!  Where would you prefer your cortisol to be working?

It is important to plan your time – days, weeks, months and years to allow yourself to have recovery time to go hand in hand with your periods of hard work.

So what do we mean by recovery?

Recovery can take a number of different forms.  It may involve switching off from work completely.  For example it could be holidays or even just long weekends away throughout the year.

In the shorter term it might be finding a relaxing pastime that really helps you to mentally escape from work.  For example this could be going to the movies or out with friends for dinner.

Of course it’s not suggested that you should whip out and see a movie in the middle of your workday.  However there are ways to break up your day to give you more perceived recovery time such as switch to some tasks which absolutely need to be done but don’t take as much of your mental energy to do them.  Stay tuned for my next blog where we will explore this concept in further detail.

Give yourself permission to be productive

Of course the hardest part for most people about incorporating recovery is giving oneself permission to do so.  Many of us were brought up with the belief that you have to work harder to be more successful.  Don’t get me wrong – hard work certainly does go a long way to success – it’s certainly not about shying away from hard work, it’s just important to factor in some smart, considered and well-planned recoveries as part of the process in order to take your productivity to the next level.

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