Morten Hansen is on a mission to help companies and people become great at work with actually working less. Morten, a leadership expert, bestselling author, and one of the keynote speakers at Nordic Business Forum Norway in May 2019, has conducted extensive research on work performance, exploring the factors that improve the ways of working and optimize the use of time and effort.
However, when thinking about the rhythm of knowledge work today, where constant requirements for development, over-hours and multitasking are more than normal, this sounds like an impossible equation. How can we actually spend less time working, if we want to keep up with the needs of the working life? We all know the days, when our to-do lists seem to be getting longer no matter how many hours a day we might work, the dizzy feeling after a busy week with a few days of working overtime, when we might ask the question: does this really pay off and how long can I keep the pace up with actually still staying productive?
“Working ever more hours was like squeezing an orange: in the beginning, as you begin to squeeze the orange, lots of juice comes out. But as you continue to squeeze that orange, less and less juice comes out. — And so it is with work: as you keep piling on hours, say from 40 to 50 to 60, your performance only improves a tiny bit. And beyond 65 hours per week, we found, job performance overall declines.” – Morten Hansen
That is exactly why Morten has aimed to find the best practices to optimize work performance through increased efficiency, in less time. Morten argues, that the hours that we put into our work, is not the indicator we should follow to measure productivity, and instead we should free up working hours for the priorities that actually matter. He has compiled a “do less, then obsess” list of three best practices, especially concerning the busy workers of 2019, that help you work more efficiently, instead of piling more hours to your week.
“Do less, then obsess” – How to work smarter in 2019
1. Pursue the extreme few.
“The first part of the “do less, then obsess” principle is about ruthless prioritization. You can only become great if you choose to focus on very, very few things at work. You cannot do it all. You must choose. Here’s one way to do it for 2019: what is the most important thing you must achieve at work in January 2019? Write that down on a piece of paper and stick it on a wall where you can see it every day. When February 1 comes around, write down the most important thing you must achieve in February. And so on. By dividing 2019 into 12 middle distance runs (sort of between a sprint and a marathon), you can make progress throughout the year.”
2. Cut wasteful meeting time, and then obsess.
“The second part of the principle is to go all in on the few priorities and do them exceptionally well. But you can’t do that if your daily life is filled with all sorts of busywork. You must free up time. We found in our study that many people waste time in too many (ineffective) meetings. If we rid ourselves of some of that wasted time, we can better spend time on what really matters. Try to implement this rule: cut meetings in half. Cut the number of meetings in January in half; slash the duration of meetings in half (say from one to half an hour, or from 30 to 15 minutes); and reduce the number of people in meetings by half. That will free up time! Then use that time to go all in on the few priorities that matter: pay fanatic attention to details; double check your work; prepare presentations and meetings twice as hard; spend extra time with customers; and so on.”
3. Spend your time dividend in 2019.
“In our study, we found that people who mastered “do less, then obsess” also had a better work-life balance. They scored much lower on the statement, “the demands of my work interfere with my family and personal time.” But, you can only realize this work-life benefit if you spend your time dividend wisely. By doing less and obsessing, you focus your efforts on a few tasks—and thus save time. You can reinvest that saved time in work (like a business reinvesting its profits into the business) or you can spend some of that saved time on outside personal and family time (like a business paying a dividend to shareholders). Split that saved time: Obsessing to excel requires you to reinvest some of that saved time into work, yet some of it you can spend outside of work. Practically, it means, “I cut out two hours of wasteful meetings every Monday; one hour I spend going over those customer reports one more time (obsessing) and the other hour I spend going home earlier to see my kids.” You do better work, and you have a happier life.”
Are you working smart or working hard? If you want to see how you’re doing on working smarter and get tips on how to improve your efficiency, take Morten’s quiz here to assess your working habits through seven different work smarter practices.
Interested to see Morten speak live? Get your tickets to see him at NBFNorway on May 9th and receive a free hard-copy of his latest book Great at Work!