Wednesday, 25 January 2012

New Year’s resolution: Boost your career

Last week, we discussed a New Year’s resolution many of our readers might have: exercise more. Today, we will look at another one: boost your career. What can we do in order to do so? In previous posts, we learned that grit and hard work are key factors for our success, probably even more important than talent. Does this mean that we have to work a lot in order to become successful?

Undoubtedly, hard work is crucial for success. However, more is not always better. On Positive Psychology News Daily, Marie-Josée Salvas Shaar outlines some research concerning the issue of overworking. When working too much, we do not have the time to exercise or to provide ourselves with a nutritious meal, and we do not sleep enough. However, research shows that exercise (see post “Can weight lifting make us smarter?”), nutrition, and sleep (see post “In Morpheus’ realm”) are important factors for being mentally fit and thus for being productive. Furthermore, overworking is closely related to depression. Thus, working too much results in poorer productivity, which in turn makes it necessary to put in more hours, which will be exhausting and therefore impede productivity, and so on. It leads to a downward spiral.

Whereas being depressed and on an unhealthy diet as well as lacking sleep and exercise are detrimental to performance, subjective well-being seems to be beneficial for it. In a field study with employees, Thomas A. Wright, Russell Cropanzano, Philip J. Denney, and Gary L. Moline found subjective well-being to be a strong predictor of work performance. For personal well-being, factors such as social contacts are important (as for example Ed Diener and Martin Seligman found) – which we can’t have when we work all the time. Our own data also suggest that the amount of recreation we allow ourselves are related to well-being. Thus, well-being seems to be important for job success.

Summing this all up means: Being successful at our jobs requires a lot of effort. However, more is not always better. It is important to allow ourselves time to recreate, spend time with family and friends, exercise, sleep, and have a healthy diet. If you are an employer, it makes sense to bear these findings in mind. If you want your employees to be productive, motivate them, but avoid making them work too much.

Thus, find out for yourself: How much can you work before you start feeling exhausted? How much recreation, sleep and exercise do you need, what diet is good for your performance? And how much time with your loved ones do you need? Knowing yourself better with respect to these questions might help you find your optimal level of performance.

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