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Op/Ed

The ‘ideal worker’ is a myth- It’s time to challenge the definition

There is a widespread professional expectation that one be an “ideal worker”— and it’s killing our productivity.

Working sitting at a desk working the entrepreneurial life

Today’s hectic and over-stimulated world can cause us to be hurried, busy, multi-taskers, and even workaholics, in an attempt to increase productivity and life satisfaction. Yet, there’s compelling evidence that slowing down can actually improve productivity and increase happiness. Ron Friedman asked 26 best-selling science and productivity writers for their tips on being productive. Of the 9 overarching themes for achieving top performance, no. 3 focuses on challenging the myth of the “ideal worker.”

Releasing expectations

There is a widespread professional expectation that one be an “ideal worker” – fully devoted to and available for the job, with no personal responsibilities or interests that interfere with this commitment to work. While this may be the prominent view in the workplace, there’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Productivity requires recognizing that we can’t ceaselessly work and maintain optimal levels of performance.

Increasing your productivity level

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That is to say, productivity is ultimately not found in long days and late nights spent working. As Ron Friedman found, productivity experts make sure to:

Exercise: Exercising ups your productivity level. A brisk walk during lunchtime could lead to enhanced time management skills, ability to meet deadlines, and improvements in mood.

Sleep: A good night’s sleep is key to not only our well-being but to our productivity as well. Time and time again research studies have identified the benefits of sleep. A minimum of 6 hours of sleep is necessary for staying productive. If you’re relied upon to be creative and think up new ideas, a better night’s sleep could see you succeed more than ever before.

Lack of sleep and stress is also a vicious cycle. A lack of sleep contributes to increased stress levels, something which needs to be reduced if you are to work to the best of your ability.

Cycle work: Take regular breaks. One productivity expert said they focus for 90 minutes, uninterrupted. After 90 minutes, they take a break.

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Others follow the Pomodoro technique, where you’re prompted to set a timer and work in 25-minute blocks, followed by a short break each time the timer goes off. You don’t have to stick to a rigid time structure. Optimizing productivity can be in the form of cycling between focused working and taking a break.

Disconnect: Unplug from email for some portion of time when you’re not at work.

Simple tweaks to improve your performance

Take it from experts and try these out to improve your performance. For all 9 productivity tips, check out the full article.

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Written By

Nichole earned a Master's in Sociology from Texas State University and has publications in peer-reviewed journals. She has spent her career in tech and advertising. Her writing interests include the intersection of tech and society. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Communication and Media Studies at Murdoch University.

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