No one today would argue with me that most Americans are overly stressed. Technology, feeling the need to immediately return text and emails, and the pace at which we live today has created an epidemic of chronic stress and mental fatigue. In fact, between 60 percent and 80 percent of doctor visits today are a result of this chronic stress. And of course, when we are stressed we make poor lifestyle choices. Which means we eat on the run, make unhealthy food choices, and take too little, if any, time to exercise, rest and do the things that bring us joy. The cumulative effect of all this stress? Burnout and chronic disease.
True or False? A key to being successful and doing more important work is to be an early riser. Early risers do their best work before everyone’s awake and the distractions of the day take over.
False! Rising early is is not a requirement for success. Don’t take this the wrong way. Generally speaking, becoming an early riser is good advice. It applies to a lot of people. But the truth is that good, general advice doesn’t apply to everyone and there are far too many people trying to force themselves into this mold when a number of alternatives would might work much better.
There are 24 hours in every day, and it doesn’t matter which ones you choose to use so long as you use them effectively. Everyone has their own set of hours when they’re most creative, and the key to doing great work is recognizing when they are and leveraging them. Maybe you fall somewhere in between the extremes and you’re not quite sure where you fit. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to get closer to finding your most productive time:
What time do you naturally wake up and go to bed?
If you can, spend a few days without an alarm clock and see what time you naturally wake up at. When do you get tired again and go to sleep? If you let it, your body will tell you what your natural rhythm is. You might feel tempted or pressured to wake up earlier, but don’t. There’s no reason to mess with your natural schedule.
What time of day do you feel most alive?
This is your productive time and it’s the greatest opportunity you have to crank out your best work. If you don’t feel like you’re very productive, it’s probably because you’ve been out of sync with your natural energy levels. Pay attention to when you really come alive each day and use that window to do your most important work, not check email or surf the web.
The problem a lot of people run into is that there are too many distractions during their productive time. Maybe you have to be at work or have some other commitment you’ve made.
If that’s your case and you’re trying to juggle other commitments with your most important work, then try out the early riser routine. It’s popular because it works. It’s just not the best option for a lot of people.
So, try to make your most important work the primary commitment during productive hours. That may seem like a lot to ask, but the truth is, you eventually have to make the shift anyway if you want your best work to become your life’s work. You can only hold those conflicting ideals for so long before you either take a big leap or resign from your best work.
Assuming you’re ready to let go of the early-riser myth and start doing your most important work when it’s right for you, here are a few things I do to make sure I get the most productivity out of my own time:
- Stick to a schedule. Figure out when you’re most productive and set it aside for your most important work.
- Pick one task. Don’t get bogged down trying to do 10 “important” things at once. Pick one and do it with focus.
- Eliminate distractions. If I want to do my best work, I need to focus. That means I turn off the computer, the phone, even the stereo. One-hundred percent of my attention goes toward the work that needs to get done.
- Find back-up work locations. I have a primary work space and routine, but occasionally that can cause things to get a boring. If I feel stifled, I have two or three other places I can go to get things flowing again. A change of scenery can make a huge difference for me.
Start getting used to doing your best work during your most productive time and you might notice less and less of a need to get up extremely early to keep up with your schedule.
What are your productive hours? Are you getting the most out of them?
By Mike Daley
Many office dwellers who work in front of computers for extended periods of time know there are unintended health consequences like increased risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease that come with 40+ hours of sitting each week. However, individuals with computer-oriented jobs often neglect to understand how a constant use of technology can impact eyesight and vision health.
Too much screen time can result in a temporary discomfort known as digital eye strain, which is characterized as the temporary physical eye discomfort felt after two or more hours in front of a screen. Marked by symptoms such as red eye, irritated or dry eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, back and neck pain and headaches, digital eye strain isn’t the result of one single issue —several environmental factors can contribute to it, including personal vision health, posture, lighting and personal device use habits.
A new report from The Vision Council finds nearly one-third of adults (30%) spend more than half their waking hours (9+) staring at digital devices and a majority of Americans experience symptoms of digital eye strain as a result.
Faced with hours at the computer, coupled with harsh LED or fluorescent lighting that emit blue light, office environments are increasingly becoming hot spots for digital eye strain. It has been estimated that as many as 70 to 75 percent of computer workers experience eye discomfort from high screen use.
The good news is that our workforce doesn’t have to live with this discomfort and can utilize tools and techniques to protect eyes. Computer eyewear is designed to increase individuals’ field of view, bring mid-distance objects into focus, reduce reflection from indoor and outdoor lighting and absorb blue light.
In addition to computer eyewear, below are some other tips that can help relieve digital eye strain in the office:
- Remember the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from the screen and look at something 20 feet away.
- Build an optimal workspace to mitigate outside stressors like lighting, screen glare and computer set-up.
- Increase the text size on your devices to better define the content on your screen.
Preventative eye care, like an annual comprehensive eye exam, can help preserve vision and identify other health issues early on in disease progression ensuring lifelong vision health. If you have digital eye strain, your eye care provider can discuss eyewear options or lifestyle changes to protect eyes. By taking action, individuals can enhance their vision when using digital devices.
For better or for worse, digital devices have changed the way we receive and process information. It is important that human resources professionals recognize the toll prolonged use of technology has on vision, employee productivity and health and understand solutions are available to address this emerging health issue in the workplace.