In today’s knowledge economy, which includes communication professionals, having flexible and creative minds is a must for productivity. Studies on Canadian productivity illustrate that we lag behind much of the world, but it doesn’t have to be so!
With the help of science you can reduce your stress level, work with more ingenuity and make better use of the hours in the day. Here are three common workplace mistakes that communication professionals make, and how to correct them to prevent burnout and work more effectively.
MISTAKE 1: Working long hours.
If you’ve spent enough time on LinkedIn you’ll see a meme, it reads, “A 40-hour work week? Yes, I remember my first part-time job.” In the early 20th century, 80 to 100 hour work weeks became the norm for trial lawyers, physicians and munitions workers. Then as our field and society’s thirst for knowledge and information grew, so do the workday of PR and marketing pros. You’ve heard it before, “More hours doesn’t always mean more productive hours,” and here’s further proof to call it a day.
A study published last April, based on interviews of more than 100 management consultants for the Harvard Business Review, found that managers couldn’t tell the difference between people who actually worked 80 hours a week and those pretending they did.
This aligns well with more than a century of research on productivity. If you are working more than 50 hours a week — you are wasting your time.
Plan your days with a real to-do list and instead of burning out, begin to track how long individual tasks actually take you. Time yourself from beginning to end — turn off your phone and avoid distractions — then plan how to optimize your productivity around completing those necessary tasks. What you may find is it isn’t work that takes you so long, but peripheral demands that you can reduce or deflect.
Finish that to-do list and go home!
MISTAKE 2: Working in silence.
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that creative professionals working in an environment with the ambient noise of a coffee shop or 70 decibels (dB) had increased creativity. The research measured participants’ performance in word puzzles, at a variety of noise levels ranging from 50 dB—which is about the volume of a typical conversation—to 90 dB, the noise created by a motorcycle.
The Goldilocks Zone for performance is at 70, where the research stipulates that the added mental stress of ambient noise helps us to hold more ideas in our mind at a time. The average person can keep between six and nine points of information in our minds at a time — much like a computer’s RAM memory. Mid-level ambient noise increases this mental RAM, helping boost abstract thought and thereby creativity. The noise keeps you from focusing too heavily on a single thought, enabling you to juggle more ideas.
Conversely, when it is too quiet we are too focused and too loud, too distracted.
So, turn up the tunes to a moderate working volume and get more creative!
MISTAKE 3: Emailing too much.
Email is maligned as a time-suck and something that companies like co-working software company Slack, are allegedly trying to kill by creating digital collaborative work spaces that make email redundant. The science says that email itself isn’t the problem, but rather how often we engage with it.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia published a study in the Journal of Computers in Human Behaviour concluding that limiting yourself to checking email three-times a day reduced stress among its participants and improved wellbeing.
Easier said than done? Maybe, but try setting boundaries around when you check your email; once in the morning, once after lunch and once at the end of the day. This won’t be possible all of the time, but during lowered periods of demand stagger your email engagement and de-stress your life.
To make the most of your pitching efforts regardless of your work habits here are 71 Ways to Get Media Coverage.