Newspaper article International New York Times

The Secret to Sustaining Productivity

Newspaper article International New York Times

The Secret to Sustaining Productivity

Article excerpt

We perform better when four core needs are met: sufficient rest, a feeling of value, freedom to focus on priorities and connection to a greater cause.

How do you drive sustainably high performance in an era of relentlessly rising demand?

Understandably, this question keeps countless leaders and managers up at night. It is also a challenge for any of us who feel compelled to become ever more accomplished without sacrificing excellence or our well-being.

The typical solution -- put in more hours -- won't work anymore. The vast majority of salaried employees are already doing that, and many of them are paying a price that they are finding less and less acceptable. They are exhausted and often overwhelmed, and they deeply want to invest time in their families and the rest of their lives.

But what if people could simply be more efficient and productive during the time they are at work? What if there's a win-win solution for employers and employees?

The unspoken secret is that we show up at work each day with at least two selves. One serves us far better than the other, both as individual performers and as managers and leaders trying to get the highest productivity from our teams.

How you feel profoundly influences how well you perform at work. Think for a moment about the way you feel when you're at your best. Take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, write "Best" at the top left column, and list a series of adjectives.

Next, on the right side of the page, write "Worst" at the top. What are the adjectives that describe how you feel under those circumstances?

With rare exceptions, clients tell us they perform best -- and manage others more effectively -- when they are feeling the adjectives in the left column. With remarkable consistency, they use the same words to describe this state: energized but also calm, enthusiastic, confident, optimistic and passionate.

Based on your two lists, is there any doubt that you perform better when those left-column adjectives describe the way you feel? Unfortunately, that's not the way we feel all the time. Instead, we move along a spectrum between our two selves, depending on the demands we face on any given day and the interactions we have with others.

The self that typically serves us best is regulated through our parasympathetic nervous system. That is when our prefrontal cortex - - our thinking mind -- runs the show. In this state, we're capable of making choices logically and reflectively, and we tend to feel in reasonable control of our destiny.

Our second self is regulated by our sympathetic nervous system. The amygdala -- a more primitive part of the brain -- takes charge. This self is characterized by fight or flight. It takes over reactively and automatically when we're feeling a sense of vulnerability and threat, most commonly to our sense of value and worthiness rather than to our actual survival. …

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