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haw-week-badgeLast month’s Budget was headlined by a ‘deteriorating’ and ‘uncertain’ economic outlook. Yet again we find ourselves in challenging times, but how are you choosing to react?

For some of us, turbulent times mean sticking to the safe option. We feel secure if we repeat the ‘way we’ve always done things’ to help mitigate the risk of further disruption, especially in the workplace. However for others, risky times spark opportunity. Open minds choose to react in a way that seeks to do things differently in order to drive new growth, whether that be personally or in business.

But which approach is most effective, for you and your work? The productivity position! ! According to Christine Lagarde (Managing Director, IMF) the prime reason for our economic conundrum is weak productivity. This is something Angel Gurria’s (Secretary-General of the OECD) also agrees with, as she explains that our ‘output per hour worked, is the central ingredient in the pursuit of (everyone’s) wellbeing’ (2016). So why in the UK are we not mastering the art of being productive?

To paint a grounded picture, the UK now has its lowest productivity since the 1990’s (ONS 2016) and sits not so prettily in the 2nd poorest spot against the rest of the world’s richest nations. Yet according to the ONS, if we increased productivity rates to match our US counterparts, GDP could rise by up to 31 percent, equating to £21,000 per household per annum.

People matters

Yet how does this effect us individually today? A new study by the Social Market Foundation (2016), released some concerning findings about our working effectiveness. Average figures showed that:

40 percent of us experience performance reducing stress

34 percent achieve less than they hoped due to poor health

16 percent of us struggle to concentrate

This breakdown helps us understand practically where we are going wrong and it even shares the reality that in in some sectors, such as energy, the trends are 20 percent worse.

Let’s get productive

“CFO ask CEO ‘what happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?’! CEO to CFO ‘what happens if we don’t and they leave?’’

Shifting to a more effective and productive way of working will not miraculously happen over night, but it can be achieved if we choose to change. And before you shake your head, this is not about working longer hours and ignoring the idea of balance. In fact our research shows the opposite should be celebrated. We at Yoke Consultancy have uncovered the ‘top three ways to unlock your productivity.’ The success of which depends on your ability to balance the current focus of learning, which seeks external accreditation and validation, with a new wave of development, focused on your relationship with yourself.

This later connection determines who we bring forward each day and with that, our productivity capacity.

1. Growth mindsets

Cultivating a deep understanding that everyone’s ability is achieved through practice, is the premise of Carol Dweck’s (1978) growth mindset. By creating a foundation of possibility that celebrates mindful work and not inherited talent, effective foundations are set in place for highly productive teams that actually embrace change.

The key is to create a culture that moves away from fixed mindsets, based on past experience, towards growth mindsets that genuinely believe we can all excel together. Many of us still hold on to old stories about our skills and proficiencies; the classic being ‘I’m no good with numbers’ following a teacher’s comment at the age of 7.

However this narrative limits our potential and chance to encounter experiences where we can prove ourselves wrong. Individual action:

A. Write down one limiting story you tell yourself frequently that is based in the past. This could be related to your appearance, work success, relationships, financial status….

B. Then take a tally of how many times you repeatedly use this story in one day

C. Then write down a sentence that reflects the opposite and begin to practice replacing this story in your head for 1 week, and notice the effects

2. Rest and reflection

For the workaholics amongst us, the hours we work are equal to our effectiveness…right? However there is no research to prove this is the case. In fact the latest neuroscience studies show that effective cognitive functioning, or productivity, comes from mastering the art of managed focus and rest. Just as we would schedule time in our working life to have a meeting, it is important to do the same for our minds to stop and relax. This is an alien concept for many, but establishing a routine of ‘acting’ and ‘being’ will improve your presence, application and satisfaction of (working) life.

Individual action

A. Schedule in 10 minutes everyday to rest with awareness and simply listen to your breath!

B. After a week, reflect on how this feels for you, noticing your avoidance tactics and successes and refine your approach to build it into your following week’s routine

3. The mirror effect The final step consolidates the first two; by helping to improve the way we explore our growth mindsets and rest and relaxation routines, we continue to move forward. The key to this iterative development is feedback. And before you shy away and say my live is full of feedback … from friends comments to formal work assessments, I want to ask which of these sources are unbiased?

It is rare to have feedback from a truly independent coach or mentor who objectively assesses how well we are growing. Yet as Syed’s (2010) ‘purposeful practice’ research shows, the world’s best sportsman and business leader, seek independent feedback loops that provide an objective view to help further refine our personal development for the better.

Individual action

A. Identify a person who you respect yet is detached from your life

B. Reflect on why you have chosen them and what you seek to learn through a potential feedback relationship

C. Take action by formalising what this looks like (time, location, regularity) and approaching them to get started. If you need advice on coaching, Yoke has a reputed team of wellbeing coaches.

Author: Rachel Arkle, Yoke Consultancy

Rachel Arkle is director of Yoke Consultancy, a leading wellbeing consultancy. As an expert in the wellbeing field, Rachel works with UK companies to help them understand and improve organisational wellbeing, in order to drive workforce and cultural effectiveness.

Rachel’s latest research, “3 reasons your wellbeing strategy could be ineffective,” is being published by HR Review next week, on 11th April 2016, be sure to keep an eye out here!