CGL Partner Jenny Gumer appeared on the podcast this week to discuss work-life balance and productivity. She delves into her experience with how meaningful balance and thoughtful habits actually improve productivity. The episode was a follow-up from last year’s episode where Jenny discussed Spring Cleaning Work Stressors.
Notifications and the Attention Economy
Last year, Jenny highlighted how turning off her notifications (including the badge, icons, and sounds) had incredibly positive impacts on productivity as well as the quality and thoughtfulness of her responses.
She commented that (when switched on) notifications are a constant distraction. They pull your attention away from what you’re doing. For her, she found that she was grabbing for her phone every five minutes while notifications were on. This had a clear impact on her productivity and presence. The reality is that she was likely grabbing for her phone at random intervals even if she hadn’t received a notification, as a result of the ‘phantom calls and notifications’ phenomena.
A study out of the University of California Irvine suggests that after only 20 minutes of interrupted performance, people reported experiencing higher stress, increased workloads, greater effort to complete work, and pressure. All of this can (and does) lead to burnout and job dissatisfaction (both of which result in decreased productivity).
Workplace Habits to Strategically Respond, Instead of Reacting
One year on, Jenny still suggests that any founder or attorney looking to improve work-life balance and ramp up productivity should switch off notifications. But she has gone on to hone her workplace habits to make space for strategy and reduce reactivity.
Here are some of the key changes she has implemented:
Waking up and living life for a period before engaging with her phone.
So many of us wake up and start scrolling. Not doing this has been key for Jenny’s ability to start the day strategically.
Reducing the number of unnecessary ‘perceived’ urgencies at work.
By discussing timelines, instead of assuming the preferred timeline, workers can reduce the number of perceived urgencies. It’s not uncommon for workers to suggest a ‘due date’ that’s too early, usually to create a good impression. This creates stress for the worker, and may not actually increase the client’s satisfaction with the work. Often, it’s better to ask when the client would like it, instead of proposing a timeline that’s too short.
Creating a to-do list at the start of each week.
To-do lists, like goals, only work if there is planning behind them. Jenny spends time at the start of each week (before even opening her emails) not only working out what she needs to do, but also scheduling time to get it done. This allows her to get a realistic grasp on what she can achieve this week, what needs to happen in the near future, and helps reduce the number of times she creates perceived urgencies by promising work too soon.
Balancing Urgent Work with Important Life
To dive deeper into this topic, please listen to our recent podcast episode: Balancing Urgent Work with Important Life. It’s available here.
In it, we cover:
- How to recalibrate to achieve better balance
- Finding clarity and peace of mind through meditation
- Ensuring proactive communication with your clients
- Blocking time off to re-energize yourself
- Setting daily reminders for inspiration and motivation.
- Intentionally working in movement through your day
- How to take guilt-free time off
- Jenny’s book recommendations.
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