Dial down the guilt, you don’t have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé

Mega-productive people usually have teams running around for them

I get a sense that people believe they were not productive or sharp enough during the lockdowns. Photograph: iStock

I get a sense that people believe they were not productive or sharp enough during the lockdowns. Photograph: iStock

 

Do you have your signature garment ready for the Great Return to normal work?

An example of a signature garment is Mark Zuckerberg’s T-shirt. It saves him the trouble of having to choose something to wear. Throw it on and he is ready to face the world and conquer.

Its degenerate cousin is the Zoom top you wear to pretend you are fully dressed when you are not.

According to Dr Maria Kordowicz who lectures in business psychology at the University of Lincoln, adopting such a garment is encouraged by some productivity gurus.

Instead of allowing ourselves time to be creative and spontaneous in how we dress ourselves, we are encouraged to eliminate making choices about our clothes, so as not to reduce our productivity, she complains in the Psychologist.

I mention this, not because I want you to wear a drab signature garment, but because I get a sense that people believe they were not productive or sharp enough during the lockdowns. The return to the cubicle – in your signature garment – offers the opportunity to resolve to do better.

To help you do this perhaps you will turn to time management. In that context, I love a piece of research from Concordia University, Montreal, which found that time management makes you feel better without dramatically boosting your productivity.

The researchers looked at 158 papers produced since the mid-1980s. They found that time management moderately boosts your work performance. But the biggest boost by far is to general life satisfaction and also it reduces feelings of distress.

Control

Why this should be so isn’t very clear but it may be that time management increases our sense of control – and control is a psychological need of human beings.

It is possible too that people use the techniques to help them get more time for family, social life or non-work activities.

So don’t worry about it if time management doesn’t double your output or empty your inbox. It makes you feel better anyway and that’s good enough in my book.

In any event, people who are mega-productive probably have a lot of other people running around helping them to be mega-productive.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé”? The Concordia team poured cold water on this meme according to Emily Reynolds’ report for the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.

It pointed out that Beyoncé has a team of nannies, drivers, chefs, personal trainers and more to manage her time. Some of the hours in their days are also hours she gets to use.

Good luck to her, but most of us are probably never going to boost our productivity much above what it is now – the magic app that will do it for us doesn’t exist. And if it ever does it will probably come in the form of a fake-friendly robot that will take our jobs away and send us off to live quietly on the Basic Income. So dial down the guilt.

Slow-living

Dr Kordowicz recommends we learn to place a higher value on “contemplation, slow-living and self-compassion”.

Okay, in a job interview these might not be the qualities you want to reel off when asked what you’d bring to the table, but you can still cherish them in your heart and that can help you manage your time in ways that are nourishing for you (after you’ve landed the job).

A lot of those ambitions we had at the start of the first lockdown were productivity ambitions of a sort: create the perfect kitchen, the perfect shelves, get through the unread books, make that sad garden into something Diarmuid Gavin would swoon over, learn Italian, lose a stone, do 15,000 steps a day – what were we thinking?

So maybe consider if, at least for part of the week, you might heed the following wisdom from the Nap Bishop whose Nap Ministry account is on Instagram (@thenapministry): “Grind culture wants us to keep going no matter what. I sit my ass down and daydream. The answer is NO.”

Padraig O’Morain (@PadraigOMorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Daily Calm. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email (pomorain@yahoo.com)

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