Time management is one of the biggest challenges that people face in business, and also in their daily lives. There are many different tips and personal help books and websites, as well as training programmes and online tools and apps all of which help people to better apportion their time to the activities they want to get done. All of this however, and people still manage to fail at time management. This is a mystery to many.
Not so for David Brendel who in early 2014 came up with “The Heretic’s Guide to Getting More Done”, which was published on the Harvard Business Review blog. Brendel argued that most people are getting it all wrong. Instead of looking to squeeze that last possible few moments out of a day already cram packed with endless tasks that have to be done, Brendel argues that people are struggling to achieve all that they want to because they are simply not getting sufficient down time. This means that their brains are not getting enough time to relax and rejuvenate. David Brendel says of this:
“I help clients reach peak performance by actually doing less work at key times – and by engaging in downtime activities that cutting edge research shows to be effective in boosting productivity”.
So it would seem that getting enough downtime is not just about crashing out on the sofa and watching mindless television. Instead, David Brendel recommends specific activities that should be carried out during downtime to enable the brain to be able to function better when it is most needed. Brendel offered five tips to help with gaining sufficient downtime for increased performance. These were:
1.Daydream often – Brendel is a big fan of day dreaming and with excellent reasoning. He states that research shows that periods of daydreaming are when we have our eureka moments. Rest states when daydreaming occurs have been found to be critical to problem solving, learning and the setting of goals. Our best ideas come to us when we’re in fact not sat down chewing over them at a desk, but instead are out for a run or in the shower. For this reason, Brendel advocates that people take good healthy time to daydream and let minds wander in any direction that they like.
2.Don’t get ready for presentations and other meetings – on this subject matter Brendel is firm and encourages his clients to not spend so much time focusing on the ins and outs of what they will say in that all important meeting. Rather they should spend time ahead of the presentation or meeting focusing on anything but that meeting. This seems like a revolutionary idea, but in fact it helps to reduce the nerves that people feel sometimes in these situations, leading ultimately to a better performance.
3.Assign less time to the making of key decisions – again, this recommendation might initially seem worrisome, but research has shown that spending less time on key decisions actually helps people to make the right decisions. People that are more distracted are commonly seen to make better choices, however crazy that may seem. The approach advocated here is “deliberation without attention”, and using crosswords and Sudoko, among others, are recommended as distractions that help people to arrive at an optimal decision.
4.Attempt to be mindful rather than focused – while Brendel acknowledges that busy people at work can’t necessarily cut out for a couple of hours and hit up a yoga or meditation class, he maintains that what they can do is bring breathing activities that are restful into the work place. By taking deeper and longer breaths people are able to reduce their stress and at the same time grow their ability to be creative.
5.Cut back the working day – this particular recommendation may seem crazy to busy people frantically trying to do a great job and get ahead at work or in building up their own business. However, Brendel argues that research demonstrates that people who perform the best work for short stints of five hours at a time and that they also take breaks for restorative purposes every hour, if not more. Brendel does acknowledge that for some this can be difficult to achieve, and in this case he prescribes a day off every so often. He even proposes taking a sick day if needed to allow yourself to fully recuperate and be better placed to perform at your peak.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.