Sometimes our drive and motivation to be more effective can come from unexpected places. Whether it's traits that may be perceived as negative (like introversion), or constraints on our time and resources, you may find those are your secret weapons after all. Tackling difficult assignments means working as effectively as possible, using all the resources you have to achieve more. Being truly effective requires looking beyond the work itself, and instead at how you’re getting your work done.
Here’s a look at three ways you can channel the realities of human nature and today’s work environments to be more creative, innovative, and work more effectively.
1. Channel your laziness.
Believe it or not, our human traits of laziness, irritability, and frustration can lead to creativity and innovation, according to Liselotte Lyngsø, founding partner of Future Navigator. “In the future that lies ahead, machines are going to be much better at being machines, so we’ll be set free to be very good at being human beings again,” says Lyngsø. “Machines won’t be lazy. They go 24/7, but it’s an inherent human ability to say, ‘Hey, we could do this in a smarter way.’”
To use your potential frustration and laziness to your advantage, observe and make a note of things that irritate or frustrate you throughout your day. While it may seem that some of those irritations are beyond your control, there are always opportunities to improve the way we do things. Be willing to change small things in your routine to make your day go better — they can add up to a significantly more productive day.
2. Embrace your constraints.
Research suggests that individuals, teams, and organizations can innovate more effectively by embracing the constraints they face. “Constraints can foster innovation when they represent a motivating challenge and focus efforts on a more narrowly defined way forward,” finds an article from the Harvard Business Review. In fact, studies have found that a lack of constraints can lead to complacency and undermine innovation.
Often, our day-to-day constraints can drive us to be innovative in small ways that add up (much like our daily irritations). Constraints on our time can lead us to think of ways to ensure that we’re being as effective as we can during our workday. Ask yourself if there’s a better way to do the work you’re doing — does it need to get done at all, and if so, question whether you need to be doing it. This might include automating tasks that don’t require your special touch, learning how to create boundaries and gracefully say no to additional work, or doing the most important thing first every day (keeping in mind that you can’t do everything).
3. Do one thing at a time.
Studies have found that multitasking doesn’t actually help us get anything done faster. In fact, one researcher showed that people doing two tasks simultaneously took up to 30% longer and made twice as many errors as those who completed the same tasks in sequence, according to Caroline Webb in her book “How to Have a Good Day.”
Doing one thing at a time may feel like the opposite of busy — lazy even — but “singletasking,” or doing one thing at a time, can actually help you work more effectively. Webb recommends batching and zoning tasks and doing our best to remove distractions in order to tackle a single task at a time. Professor Cal Newport agrees. In his book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” Newport argues that the ability to focus without distraction is becoming an increasingly valuable skill for workers, as it helps them produce improved results in a shorter amount of time.
Embrace your human traits and constraints to be more effective
Whether the changes you make are small scale or large scale, paying attention to the things that grate on you and doing what you can to improve them can have a huge impact on your work day. It may be as simple as ending a meeting early so everyone has time to regroup before their next engagement, or as significant as reinventing and automating a multi-step process. By continuously improving your personal workday, you can create change and drive innovations that have a significant impact on your entire organization, so everyone can achieve more.