time management course time off

Staying focused is tough – time out is key

Life is moving faster, and it’s making it hard for us to stay focused. Not only do we have more meetings per week, more emails per day and more distractions per nano-second, the end of our to-do list becomes more distant with each passing day.

In a recent HBR blog post titled ‘The Upside of Downtime”, Jackie Coleman and John Coleman discuss the problems associated with an unrelenting focus on task completion when it comes at the cost of downtime. Many of us have become so accustomed to the idea of ‘constant connection’ that the idea of time away from work feels strange, if not a bit naïve.

Naïve or not, the fact is we all need to recharge and rejuvenate if we are going to perform well. In her book “Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work” Leslie A. Perlow talks about her work with the Boston Consulting Group and a project called “PTO” or “Predictable Time Off”.

Initially an experiment among a small team of six, the PTO testing scenario has now been rolled out to 86% of the firm’s North East offices. Some of the quoted results from the test include:

  • More excited

    51% of those in the Predictable Time Off group were excited to start work in the morning, versus 27% of the non-PTO control group

  • More satisfied

    72% were satisfied with their job, vs 49 % for those not in PTO groups

  • More balanced

    54% were satisfied with their work life balance, vs 38 %

Participants also found that the work process was more effective, (74% vs 51%), efficient, (65% vs 42%) and collaborative, (91% vs 76%). According to  BCG’s CEO, Hans-Paul Burkner, the process unleashed by these experiments “has proven not only to enhance work-life balance, making careers much more sustainable, but also to improve client value delivery, consultant development, business services team effectiveness, and overall case experience. It is becoming part of the culture – the future of BCG”.

Disconnecting from work for an agreed, predictable amount of time each week was at the heart of these experiments. The teams then met to discuss how they were going in achieving this goal. Simple.

Ask yourself; how close to the time you went to sleep last night did you check your emails on your smartphone. And how long after you woke up did you check again. It doesn’t have to be this way.

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