Work smarter, not harder
Too many hours on the job leads to stress, irritability, and mistakes

Former Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax always had a pretty good fastball. But after six years in the majors there was little indication that he would become one of the game's great players.

One day, the middle-reliever scheduled to pitch after Koufax missed his plane and Koufax volunteered to pitch the whole game. To keep his arm strong Koufax decided to pace himself and throw his fastball a little slower. Surprisingly, not only did he go the distance, he pitched a no hitter. After that, his performance increased dramatically, and the rest is history.

According to sports psychologist Robert Kriegel, author of How to Succeed in Business Without Working so Damn Hard, the Koufax example works in any area of your life from pitching a ballgame to pitching a new client.

"Think about a time when you were performing your best a work," said Kriegal in a recent interview. "Isn't it true that when you are at the top of your game, it always feels effortless, like a 90 per cent effort?"

Kriegal who has coached a variety of professional athletes, including a one-year stint with the Expos, says the key is not the quantity of time you put into your job, but the quality.

For example Kriegal once tested 150 salesmen telling half to make as many calls as they could, and the other half to work at 90 per cent speed. Those making fewer calls had at least 20 per cent better results than their peers.

"When I use that example in my seminars, everyone knows why the second group did better. They took more time to listen, made fewer mistakes and qualified their leads better," said Kriegal. "But it's easier to know what to do, than it is to put that knowledge in to practice."

Kriegal has bounced around numerous careers including a five-year stint as an account manager at Young & Rubicam. But recently he has been using the knowledge he picked up doing a psychology Ph.D., at Columbia, to co-write business books including Sacred Cows Make Great Burgers, and If it ain't Broke...Break it!

Kriegal's writing is filled with sports metaphors and he sees many parallels between sports and business. "Both are about competition and winning," said Kriegal. "When you get close to a business deadline, the pressure mounts, and just like an athlete, the mental game becomes very important."

"When I was teaching at Stanford we did research that showed athletes can perform well mentally for at most eight hours a say," said Kreigal in a telephone interview. "But then we did the research on normal people, and got the same results."

"Think of your brain as a muscle," said Kriegal. "It's only normal that after using it hard for a long period of time, it will get tired."

Unfortunately businesses do not seem to have realized this. According to Kriegel the average workweek among U.S. executives is about 60 hours, with many going as high as a 100. Kriegel believes that our work ethic is so great that in many cases it has become counter-productive.

According to Kriegel overwork leads to stress, a lower quality of life, irritability, and road rage. And the fact we are popping anti-depressants in record numbers is no-coincidence. Of even more importance to today's managers, at a certain point, overworked people become less efficient.

"What many people don't admit or even realize is that when you work that late, your brain is too fried to be productive," said Kriegal. "You make more mistakes when you are tired and pumped on caffeine. Often the next day you have to redo what you did the night before."

The solution says Kriegal, is to work smarter not harder. Kriegal advises trimming down on E-mail, useless meetings and extensive memos and reports. He also advises taking more "time-outs," to give the mind a break.

"How many good ideas have you ever had at work?" asks Kriegal. "Ask any executive, and they'll tell you they get their best ideas when they are relaxing at home, on vacation or even sleeping. But never at work."

oooooo

How to Success in Business Without Working so Damn Hard, by Robert J. Kriegel Ph.D., Warner Business Books Inc.

 

Photo caption: According to Robert Kriegel, author of How to Success in Business Without Working so Damn Hard, too many hours at work can be counter-productive.

 

Diekmeyer's E-mail address is peter@peterdiekmeyer.com

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