Long routes from home to work take energy, physical and mental, and after weeks and months (or years) leave you without enough energy for a productive day. That means quality work is a low priority.
As you slog along day after day, with just enough strength to do the high priority tasks, you take less time to discuss important topics. You don’t try to be creative and pick the first possible solution. Quality becomes a luxury and customer satisfaction a fata morgana, impossible to reach.
Noise in the office is another culprit. It takes energy and makes concentration difficult, leaving you with less for what you’re working on. Open spaces are usually noisier, but small and crowded offices can also be difficult to work on.
Unfinished projects, lots of issues to handle, unreasonable clients consume your energy even if you don’t handle the problems. Because you don’t handle the problems you have even less energy for the ones you do handle.
There are three things you can do to start saving energy for your team:
- Build momentum
- Plan for breaks
- Reduce high energy tasks
How to build momentum?
You’re not in a sprint. You’re not alone. You’re in a group marathon. Handle your group’s energy if you want the team to go the whole distance.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.African proverb
Breaks can recharge your team’s batteries and build momentum. Coming back to work next week you can use inside jokes and funny things you’ve learned with the group. This helps going over tough moments, diffusing tension and improving relations between team members.
Take the time to listen, no matter who you’re talking with. Feedback can come from management, colleagues, or customers. Try to see things from someone else’s perspective. It will change how you see things yourself and allow you to do better work. Apply your learning to push the team further.
Planning for breaks
Now that’s a strange and unproductive idea, right? Why would you do that, aren’t people supposed to work all the time they’re paid for? But ask yourself this question: If they do that, working continuously from 9 to 5, when will they recharge?
When will they learn something about your product, maybe from another team or from the customers? When will they take feedback on what they’re doing?
This need highly depends on the nature of the job, but creative people, product people, strategic people need breaks to think. To take different perspectives. To learn.
Reduce high-energy tasks
High-energy tasks are like huge deserts, you want to eat them but you can’t finish. Or you feel tired and maybe sick afterward. What you need to do is split the cake in smaller bites, eat just one small bite after lunch and leaving the rest for the next day. In the same way, you need to split huge tasks into smaller ones.
One system is to estimate a task’s difficulty by using t-shirt sizes:
- XS is very easy
- S is easy
- M is a bit difficult
- L is quite a piece
- XL and XXL … Stop right there!
Take all the L, XL and XXL tasks and split them into smaller sizes. It doesn’t matter which length they’ll have, as long as the biggest task is less than a week, ideally less than 2 days of work. This system will help you have a better understanding of the relative task sizes, reduce energy-intensive ones and improve your priorities.
Try sports, learning groups and brainstorming
You can recharge your batteries by playing a sport with teammates or friends, after your lunch breaks or in the evenings. Or you can start a reading group at work, reading a chapter over the week and discussing it together on Fridays over a coffee. It could be a technical, marketing, business, strategy or cooking book, it doesn’t matter much.
As long as the group is engaged with the subject, having these discussions is a good way to build momentum and improve communication. The subject can fit a work problem if needed, but even the existence of the group alone is very important for your team.
Another productive break can be participating in the marketing team to understand how the marketing team works, what do they need and maybe even help them. Coming back to your team, which develops the same product they work on, you’ll have a new perspective and a better understanding of other business aspects.
The goal is to save energy and recharge the team
To do this you can start here:
– build and sustain momentum
– plan for regular breaks for learning and getting feedback
– save energy by splitting work into smaller tasks
Don’t forget life outside work, and check your team’s commute to make sure they don’t spend their day in the city traffic. This will show you who needs to work remotely sometimes, or when to rent a smaller satellite office.
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