Work Smarter, Not Harder

Ideas

There’s a Better Way to Work

Steve Rio July 3, 2018

We work hard in the social sector. We do it because we want to make a difference in the world, we want to build great careers and make an impact with the work we do.

The thing is, the way we work is stopping us from achieving our full potential and causing increased levels of stress, anxiety, illness and burnout.

Our brains are the most important tool we have, yet the way we work goes against all the best research on how to maximize cognitive function.

There is a better way to work.

I’ve spent the last couple of years compiling the best research from the fields of behavioral neuroscience and cognitive psychology and condensing it into the most important things we can do to increase productivity, creativity and the quality of our work.

I’ve seen through my own experience and through leading a large team of remote digital workers, that we can increase our capacity by as much as 50%. That’s like having 3-4 hours back in your day. Beyond increasing our capacity, we can establish a better sense of balance.

We can feel healthier, more relaxed, and ultimately happier in our work and our lives.

We’ve recently launched a new line of workshops and consulting to help individuals and teams integrate this approach to work. Last month we delivered a workshop at Hollyhock as part of the Activate conference. Activate is a new conference focused on digital tactics for the social sector, which we were excited to partner with, both as sponsors and as speakers.

Many of the attendees at the Activate conference were political organizers, campaigners and activists.  I can’t think of a more fitting audience to talk to about work habits and burnout. The nature of the work these folks do is constantly urgent and high stakes, and the work-life balance is notoriously bad. A lot of it is about mindset, often the more passion you have for your work, the worse your work habits are, and the more obsessive you become in your habits and approach. It’s the same for entrepreneurs trying to get their start-ups off the ground. Constant late nights, 24/7 tethering to their devices and the internet, and no sense of balance between stress and rest.

As I’ve matured in my work habits (read: gotten older), I’ve come to realize that “grinding” is actually hustling backwards. When we put in 12-14 hour days, we’re actually getting diminishing returns, and it’s a self-perpetuating downward spiral of productivity. Soon, the only way to get anything done IS to work long hours, because you’re mentally exhausted.

If there is one thing I’d tell my 25-year-old self, it would be about how my work habits were actually slowing me down. That my relationship with time and my sense of panicked urgency was diminishing my ability to perform at an elite level.

We simply can’t perform at an elite level if we’re stressed out and mentally fatigued. Professional athletes know this. They spend a lot of time training, but spend more time learning how to get into a focused, calm mindset before a competition. It’s something that we completely ignore in the working world.

In the coming months, I’ll be leading talks, workshops, webinars and courses that are designed to help individuals and teams create a better relationship with time, technology and work.  To learn more, check out our upcoming workshops.

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