Following Mom's Advice
My Mom chose college over a car and loved working for Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington after college. Though she was a very active stay-at-home mom after she married my Dad, my Mom always told me to have a career and a family, and I followed her advice. Another piece of advice from both my Mom and my Dad was to “do the best you can.” Blessed (and, in some ways, cursed) with a body that doesn’t require much sleep to keep going, I took that advice to mean I should work as many hours as I could. In my first high-tech management job, I clocked 110 hours one week, and 70, 80, 90 hours many other weeks.
Then I had my son, and I knew that the hours I spent at the office, I wasn’t spending with my precious little guy. I had my career and my family, and I wanted to do the best I could at both. I decided to see if I could get more effective at work rather than just piling on more hours.
I started each day by applying my Time Management Mantra:
- Just say “NO”
Lo and behold, I became a better manager, clearer and more focused when I wasn’t trying to do everything at once till all hours of the night. What I found to be true in my own experience is now supported by multiple research studies in the U.S. and abroad – that working long hours doesn’t increase productivity, in fact, it can actually decrease effectiveness. In addition, research studies show that multitasking serves to slow you down, with switching between tasks costing up to 40% in productive time. I found that I increased my productivity and effectiveness when I batched up tasks and worked through them then moved on to the next batch rather than trying to multitask at work.
When Joan and I were interviewed recently for the Enlightened Business Summit, Stephen Dinan, Founder and CEO of The Shift Network asked us about the expectation that everyone would work long hours. I told Stephen I had my son to thank for learning that working nonstop wasn’t the right answer, either for the company or for my family. We discussed focusing on results rather than on the number of hours people work. To that end, we described two approaches designed by Great Work Cultures champions that are successfully increasing both productivity and engagement – High Performance Work Places (HPWP), designed by Sue Bingham and her team, and the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), created by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. HPWP and ROWE are being successfully implemented in a wide range of organizations and industries, including manufacturing, retail, finance, insurance, education, food processing, and healthcare, leading to lower turnover and higher productivity and engagement. It turns out that approaches like ROWE and HPWP offer a real win-win, supporting the people who work in these organizations and their families and, at the same time, leading to better bottom-line results for the companies that embrace the change. Now we can follow my Mom’s advice to have a career and a family in ways that mothers, families, and organizations all come out ahead.