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Increasing productivity: How do we get through the year more calmly?

11/01/2022 2022/01

Being in "flow" or experiencing the "flow state" - this is what many employees are working towards in our performance-oriented society. In dynamic times, it is often not so easy to stay focused and with oneself. What we need, what role mindfulness plays in this and how it can work this year, you can read here.

Productivity through serenity: a contradiction or a matter of practice?

We talked to Christopher Buschor, trainer & coach for productive serenity, and he says "A flow state is desirable, but absolutely not necessary to be serenely productive, or the path to it is already very valuable. For me, productivity means achieving something, or as much as possible, with a minimum of effort - in terms of time or otherwise. Of course, without being satisfied with less quality or accepting any other negative side effects.

According to Wikipedia, composure is an inner attitude. On the emotional level, it describes an ability to deal with challenging situations calmly or to maintain a non-judgmental attitude. Freely according to the motto - "What is, is". So simply thought. Why do we find it so difficult to live by this? The main reason for the apparent contradiction is that the word serenity is often confused with sloth or laziness.

Accepting what cannot be changed

Christopher describes it this way: "Dale Carnegie once compared it to trying to saw sawdust. Nobody would think of trying to saw sawdust. It has already been sawed. And yet so many people try to do just that when they try to change the past that has led, for example, to an unsatisfactory current situation. Secondly, after the acceptance of the present comes the examination of whether I want to and can change something about it.

Many people waste an incredible amount of energy trying to change things or complaining about things they cannot change. As an everyday example, just listen to how many people complain about the weather. Of course, this is comparatively harmless and socially very accepted, but the principle is exactly the same. You're in resistance with what's going on and on top of that you can't influence - the opposite of serenity."

In fact, far too often we put the productivity leg up on ourselves by mourning or demonising unchangeable circumstances.

Reconciling productivity and serenity through mindfulness & focus

In the first step to increasing productivity and in serenity training, we can eliminate sources of disruption. Mindfulness & focus are the magic words here. Be it the source of distraction par excellence - the smartphone - or notification functions on our computer. All of these take us out of our current activity, even if only briefly. Studies have shown that even a silent mobile phone already distracts us, so simply banish it directly from your reach for a certain period of time when you want to concentrate.

After a distraction, it takes us up to 20 minutes to get back into the same work rhythm that we lost due to a teeny distraction. That alone saves 20 minutes if we don't get distracted at all. A loud ambient noise level also puts us under stress, minimise it as much as possible. We also know from our colleagues that this is not so easy to do, for example, when homeschooling or with smaller children. At the same time, just 15 minutes less stress from the ambient noise is already the purest productivity boon for our entire workflow and our bodies.

A lot of work does not always mean a lot of productivity

Christopher describes it this way: "Productive serenity is more than the sum of productivity and serenity. The sum would be to work hard, perhaps to be distracted and disturbed again and again, to want to increase the lower productivity overall again by working overtime, and then to recover from it, i.e. to be serene. Many people practise exactly that. They work hard all day and fall onto the couch in the evening, exhausted and tired. They recharge their batteries on holiday and at the weekend, only to be fit for work again and have their energy robbed there once more. "Thank God it's Friday" is how the biggest Bavarian private radio station used to motivate its listeners to the weekend: So end the exhausting productivity (which was often not so productive at all), recover for two days and then... Oh dear, Monday, serenity adé, the whole thing all over again. That this is not a satisfactory solution is - hopefully - obvious."

Widespread in the world of work are deeply rooted convictions, also beliefs, such as "real work is hard and exhausting" or "anyone who has a responsible job and is always deeply relaxed and satisfied does not take their job seriously". Moreover, the bad reputation of serenity increases as employees take on more responsibility.

What we need to be both productive and serene

What really helps us to be balanced are clear structures, clear goals with corresponding prioritisation and the avoidance of multitasking through mindfulness, i.e. the focus on one thing. For many, this means a holistic change in the way we work, but the results in terms of stress reduction and increased productivity cannot be explained away.

At the same time, we must not make the mistake of steering from one optimisation to the next. Rather, a change of direction is also worthwhile. Why not start with serenity rather than productivity in the next workshop or seminar. Also from Christopher's experience, it is more common in companies to promote measures that contribute to productivity. "Often, in fact, measures to increase productivity backfire if they create more stress, correspondingly more mistakes happen, employees get sick more often, etc." Far too often it is still about the pressure of "having to do" - I have to get this done, I have to get that done - In this way we block our own resources ourselves.

The key point is mindfulness: get to know yourself better

Here we don't just mean meditation, yoga or walks, although that would already be a good start. No, rather it is about getting closer to ourselves again. Getting to know our own triggers, distractors, stressors and the feelings associated with them. Too often we just push these away because that's what we've been taught to do. Then, of course, they are not resolved, but again only postponed. Many people notice this later through their body, in the form of tension or back pain. Do you know what gets you completely off track?

We are allowed to be curious again and get to know what gets us off track, what distracts us or disturbs our focus. Because that's exactly what helps us get back into focus, into productivity and maybe even into flow in the end. Because flow also has to do with enthusiasm for a topic. When was the last time you were really enthusiastic? Or take a moment and feel inside yourself.

In the future, too, it will be important to work on our resilience. We know from science that resilience has many genetic components. At the same time, there are factors that we can train specifically.

In our resilience training, we look at the skills that strengthen each and every individual and preventively protect against overload. In particular, an optimistic attitude, the feeling of self-efficacy through mindfulness and shaping one's own future are examples of this. Ultimately, it is about shaping your path in the future world of work in a sustainable, healthy, productive and feasible way.

About the Author
Nadia Döhler | Organisational & HR Consulting
Nadia Döhler
Transformation Consultant

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