When we talk about improving aspects our work life, we often think about what we can add in or do more of. We might suggest things like adding in a walk at lunchtime to clear our heads, taking on more responsibility and projects to improve our professional career, or implementing techniques to become more productive and so on.
However, sometimes when we read or listen to all of these tips and suggestions we feel overwhelmed and anxious which can lead to us thinking: “What else do I need to do? I don’t have the time or energy to do more!”
What we rarely acknowledge is that we can also extract, or “spring clean” things from our work lives in order to see improvements.
Improvement does not always have to be defined as the addition of something new. In many cases, less is more and oftentimes our work can become equally more efficient and effective by reducing or eliminating certain tasks from our working day or role, instead of looking for things or tasks to add in.
A recent article in The Economist detailed studies that had been completed with individuals who were asked to improve something, for example, a Lego-brick structure, an essay, a golf course, or a university. What they found was that people tended to suggest adding new things in rather than stripping back what was already there, even when the additions led to sub-par results.
Taking a step back in a work context may seem counterproductive, however, when we analyse our work life, we allow ourselves to create a mental and physical space that enables us to focus on the really important aspects of our day or function, and as a consequence, carry them out with a higher standard.
What we want you to think about is what areas of your working day can be improved by reducing your time spent on something or eliminating a task or activity altogether?
This is a great exercise to carry out because it will encourage you to start taking control of your life at work and therefore start taking responsibility for your own well-being. Think about how you spend your time during a normal working day. What can you do in a better or more efficient way, so that you can achieve a better work life balance and create mutual benefits for both you and the organisation you work for.
By increasing your motivation, productivity, and your ability to engage in a wider variety of tasks and projects, you are opening yourself up to more possibilities and opportunities for better career development.
- One of the first examples we thought about was to become aware of the time we spend thinking negatively about certain aspects of our work. For example, when we complain about our boss, co-workers or the fact that we have yet another Zoom meeting. Do you think that you could be complaining too much? Apart from having these negative thoughts or complaints, are you actively doing something to counteract these negative feelings or emotions? Maybe you can use this time to shift your mindset into a more open one and start looking for opportunities. Of course, this is not feasible 100% of the time but by being more aware of it in the first place, you will be able to reduce how much time you spend on negative thoughts and start looking for opportunities or pathways to feel better and develop strategies that benefit you.
- Learning to say no is another area that many of us can be guilty of not sticking to enough. It can be very easy to assume that because you are at work, you have to say yes to every task or area of responsibility that comes your way, but that is not the case. How often do you feel that you are increasing your workload with no benefit to you simply because of your inability to say no?
We are obviously not talking about refusing to carry out activities within your job description, nor are we saying that you shouldn’t offer help when it is needed. What we are encouraging you to do is be more aware of the extra activities you are saying yes to, so that you can say no when you need to. How many extra projects or tasks are you currently working on that you could have said no to and used that time to improve your actual work?
- Following on from that point, take a look at the areas of your work life where you are doubling up on the workload. For example, are there multiple emails, meeting notes, and to-do lists that all say the same thing? How can you combine these so you only have to write them up once?
- Think about all the time you spend on activities that you think you must do, or in meetings you think you have to attend, but your involvement serves no real purpose? How about becoming aware of all activities that you are involved in and rethinking whether they really help you or are only increasing your workload? What tasks can you delegate that might give someone else the opportunity to grow in their career as well?
- Finally, reducing the number of notifications and pop-up messages you receive throughout the day on your work phone or computer can save a LOT of time. Go through your apps and email settings and set them only to receive notifications for important or urgent messages. Minimising these distracting notifications will help you focus better on the task at hand and complete it faster. We recommend reading Deep Work by Cal Newport if you have not yet done so as it discusses how to be more efficient at batch working without distractions.
These are just a few aspects that come to mind when thinking about how to be more efficient and productive in our working lives through extractions rather than additions.
Do you have any other suggestions or ideas that you would like to share based on this theory? We would love to hear them as we are always open to learning more from others in the industry as well!
How might all this relate to your Emotional Salary? Well, in the context of Emotional Salary, try to think about the following:
- What other changes could you think of that could improve your Emotional Salary? How?
- Can you specify which factor is affected by this specific change? See the infographic of all 10 factors to the right.
- Is there any factor in particular that you would like to improve? What might you need to get rid of to enhance that factor in your working life? For example, if I would like to increase my sense of direction in my career, I might need to stop worrying about the future and start concentrating on the tasks I can control that will help me move in the direction I want to go.
- When you start “spring cleaning” your work, think about how your Emotional Salary factors interact with each other? For example, if I turn off notifications on my mobile, I can concentrate more on the specific task at hand which will have an effect on my Mastery, Professional Growth, and Creativity.
- All 10 factors matter and are universal for every person in the workplace. Which of the factors have you not been aware of recently but you might like to create more space for in your career? How will you go about that?
To find out what factors are relevant to you in your work life and where the opportunities for improvement are, take the Emotional Salary Barometer.
Live Your Brand (the creators of the Emotional Salary Barometer) are people and organisational development specialists with passion, expertise and continuous learning at our core. We work with organisations who understand that their people are central to their success, both now and in the future, whatever challenges they may face. Through our tools and programmes, we encourage teams and organisations to listen deeply and be continuously inspired and energised by their people. We facilitate the creation of a platform for growth for all employees in the organisation, driving a clear sense of purpose and direction in order to deliver real and sustainable business results.