Welcome to the brand new podcast “Your Permission to Pause”. In this blog, I share insights from our first episode, Working Smarter, Not Harder, where we explore productivity—not through the exhaustive, sometimes brutal lens society often offers, but through a more compassionate and realistic approach.

Dial down the Distractions

If I’ve learned anything through my personal experiences and my work with clients, it’s this – our attention is in high demand, yet it’s our most finite resource. Patrick Lencioni, one of my go-to gurus for all things high-performing teams declares “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” This phrase embodies the need for distraction management, and clear priorities which are essential for high performance in our frantic world.

Stepping Back

I’m reminded of a time when my daughter felt overwhelmed with a looming deadline studying for professional accounting exams – intense to say the least!  A few curve balls and a training session that was behind schedule left her with (what felt like) an unrealistic deadline, and an intense feeling of overwhelm. Her instinct was to cancel her plans that evening, and just plough through and study more. But after a conversation that challenged her perspective, and a metaphorical permission slip to pause, she walked away for her social event, and returned more focused and productive than before. The lesson? Sometimes, stepping back is the best way to move forward, even though it feels counterintuitive. 

Reduce the To-Do List

I’ve seen again and again that our to-do lists are endless, a relentless wave of demands that can leave us feeling depleted. It takes honest self-conversations to zero in on what is most essential and eliminate the rest. This is where essentialism isn’t just beneficial—it’s crucial. Picture your tasks spread before you. Now, visualise having perfect clarity on which are the most important, which can wait, and which (let’s be honest) can disappear altogether. Such clarity doesn’t just happen; it’s a skill, and it’s one that can massively refine how you approach productivity. My advice? Practice it like you would any other habit.

Try Batch-Tasking

Let’s talk about practical steps. Visibility of tasks, prioritising based on importance, and setting success criteria for each milestone can drastically improve your efficiency. But here’s the thing about batch tasking—it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy. It could work wonders for repetitive tasks but may not suit unpredictable work or the ever-pervasive task of handling emails.

In this age of information, where technology tethers us to an incessant flow of notifications, the negative impact on focus, productivity, and mental well-being is undeniable. Imposter syndrome finds fertile ground here, fed by constant comparison and digital distraction. Yet, our organisations yearn for creativity and innovation—processes that require unhurried, undistracted time for the brain to create new connections.

Multitasking reduces Productivity

Task switching, which once seemed like a necessary evil, is drawing attention for its cumbersome cost: decreased productivity, lower IQ, and impaired creativity, not to mention the toll on mental health and well-being. The human brain is adept at switching tasks quickly, not performing multiple tasks simultaneously. As a society, particularly women, we have been sold the multitasking myth, but at what cost?

Research suggests it takes us an average of 9 and a half minutes to regain our focus after switching between tasks. Imagine that! Nearly ten minutes lost to the void each time we allow our attention to fracture.

Try Single-Tasking Instead

So, how can we combat this? Simple — single-tasking, limiting distractions, and understanding our personal bandwidth. It’s time for us to adopt the principles of essentialism and focus on doing less but better. By doing so, we not only up our productivity game, but also diminish stress and boost our overall sense of well-being.

Try One Thing

Here’s what I encourage you to do: pick one thing to change in your routine to work smarter, not harder. Start there. Experiment and evolve your work habits. Reframe how you view multitasking and figure out what ideas work best for you. Challenge its impact on your productivity and your mental sharpness. Do less, achieve more, and watch your stress levels drop. Here’s to focused success!

To listen to the full episode go to: https://link.chtbl.com/yourpermissiontopause

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