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Surprising News on What Actually Makes Us Productive

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While reading the paper last Sunday morning, I was reminded of why I prioritize getting up and out the door to my weekly yoga classes. According to Tony Schwartz, author of Being Excellent at Anything, "strategic renewal -- including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations -- boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health."

Given my post-yoga rewards of physical release and emotional calm, I am inclined to agree with the growing body of research that shows "paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less." Years ago when writing my dissertation, I'd discover myself aimlessly shopping in and out of stores. I'd often ask myself what I was doing, knowing that work awaited me, and each time the answer would be the same -- "I need to be away from it in order to go back to it." Eventually, the dissertation got finished and, for years, I've believed that my excursions to browse kept me from burn-out.

Schwartz, also the CEO of The Energy Project, applied new research findings to his own book writing. Having taken a year to write each of his first two books (at the computer for up to 10- hour days), he organized himself to work in three 90-minute intervals, taking a break after each and every interval. He was shocked by the "power of renewal" and its effectiveness in sustaining energy and focus. For those of us who need to bust the myth that working more makes us more productive, this news may be key. Consider that "renewal is central to how we work. By managing energy more skillfully, it's possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably." The secret "is simple and generally applicable. When we're renewing, we're truly renewing, so when we're working, we can really work."

To further support this notion, Schwartz points to a 2006 study done by the accounting firm Ernst & Young, finding that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors improved by 8 percent. He also reminds us that "athletes understand the greater the performance demand, the greater the need for renewal. Yet, when we're under pressure, most of us experience the opposite impulse, to push harder rather than rest."

After reading on, I'm convinced that it's beneficial to protect the time in my schedule allotted for attending yoga. Much to my husband's chagrin, I'm also convinced that my wandering through stores is a good way to restore my creativity and focus. It's far more effective (and fun) than extra cups of coffee and mindless staring at the computer screen.
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