Slow Down

freya-hammockReading back through my posts can be a bit depressing. I implore you to message all the time, using a variety of means, targeting specific groups but all groups, too. I want you to manage multiple online communities as well as, you know, actually do your job. I look at my job and see deadlines extending into the far future, job duties piled on top of job duties, social networks begging to be fed, conferences to attend, email backlogs; well, it can be depressing.

And, as much as we all know that this is no way for someone to live, I’m willing to bet that your own work-life looks strikingly similar to mine. And that depression feels just as real. Fortunately (or unfortunately, based upon how likely it is that you’ll be able to implement these recommendations), a recent interview with a Harvard researcher lays out what this means and what we can do about it:

During an interview, Amabile discussed how the ever-accelerating treadmill lessens creativity. “In the short term, people become less engaged in their work if their creativity isn’t supported,” she said. “They will also be less productive because they often can’t focus on their most important work. In the long term, companies may lose their most talented employees, as well as losing out because they won’t have the innovative products, innovative services, and business models that they need to be competitive.”

“Managers and employees need to work together to constantly prioritize, to figure out what is truly important, what they can forget about, and what can they push to the back burner in order to reduce time pressure. My colleague here at HBS, Leslie Perlow, found that, in a department of harried engineers, it was powerful to simply declare ‘quiet time’ in the morning, three days a week: no meetings with or phone calls to colleagues, no interruptions, no expecting immediate responses to emails. People were way more productive. They also felt less stressed and more satisfied with their work.”

Stepping outside of the academic white tower, and out of the gilded towers of the private sector, what does this look like for our lowly government communicator? Well, it’s a lot tougher to do, that’s for sure. We live in an era of government austerity. We’ve been asked to do more with less. And then we’ve had that “less” pared down and refocused. How the heck can we take three hours a week to just think and be creative when we can’t even make it through our forty-plus hours in a week?

The answer is, unfortunately at the beginning, more work. We need to identify where our efforts are most successful. What is it that you do that garners the biggest success? Is it responding to media calls, or blog posting? Is it posting to all of your social media networks, or just the one with the biggest audience? Is it cutting less used social networks or investing in automation tools? Is it fighting your detractors or supporting your supporters? We need to take an honest look at the work that we do and focus on what works. What will work next. Make our “less” be worth more.

How? Take a look at the work that Fairfax County has done to revamp their website. All driven by data and metrics, they’ve streamlined the process and made it easier to update content that’s being used more often, and put other stuff on the backburner. Now they can focus on what their community is looking for, and take a blessed minute to slow down and be creative.

There are tools out there that will allow us to see where we’re successful. Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Tumblr Analytics, and those are just the easy, free ones that I have bookmarked. Once we have a sense of what works and what doesn’t work, maybe we can stop doing what doesn’t work and really, truly, do more with less.

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