Work Less – Achieve More? Going Against Conventional Wisdom

Nov 4, 2019
Blog - Work Less – Achieve More

Dr. Helena Pleinert conducted this interview with Helena Miettunen. Their short profiles can be found below.

Helena, you help people achieve more by working less. This sounds interesting and perplexing. Can you tell us more about it?

In a nutshell: in general, when a person focuses on just one task or thing or doing one task at a time, they can achieve more. If your mind is spinning with too many tasks or ideas, focus is poor and everything takes a lot of more time. I help people to learn to focus, to manage their time and energy with various tools, and thereby to truly get things done.

So you advise against multitasking? Isn’t multi tasking a skill considered important for busy business people and other professionals?

In the general case and especially when doing important work, I do advise against multi tasking. It creates a sense of pressure that can be counter productive, and dilutes our focus. Also, if you are in a hurry all the time and you project a sense of hurry a stressful atmosphere may spread to others.

And yes I believe we should question ‘conventional wisdom’, not just concerning multi tasking but also in other areas of managing our performance. For example, I tell clients to take care of sleep: a large amount of research shows how we need enough sleep in order to achieve high intellectual performance. Regularly being sleep deprived is not a sign of being a high performer but rather of not being good at time and performance management.

How do you determine what the right ‘level of multitasking’ or the right amounts of rest and challenge are for an individual client?

The above are general recommendations. Of course I work on an individual level with each of my clients to find an approach that fits their personality, life and work situation. Being present at the precise moment is important. I encourage clients to practice mindfulness as well as think for themselves.

Could you recommend some reading addressing these topics for our audience?

There are many publications so it is difficult to choose, but here are a few:

Rubinstein, Joshua S.; Meyer, David E.; Evans, Jeffrey E. (2001). Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 2001;27(4):763-797

Lui, K. F. H., & Wong, A. C. N. Does media multitasking always hurt? A positive correlation between multitasking and multisensory integration. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 2012. DOI: 10.3758/s13423-012-0245-7.

Skaugset L.M., Farrell S., Carney M., Wolf M., Santen S.M., Perry M., Cico S.J., Can You Multitask? Evidence and Limitations of Task Switching and Multitasking in Emergency Medicine, Ann Emerg Med. 2016 Aug; 68(2):189-95. Epub 2015 Nov 14.


Many thanks Helena for challenging us to think for ourselves!