“Work smarter, not harder” is one of those platitudes that crops up in corporate-speak as the answer to higher productivity. As companies continue to squeeze more out of less and harbor delusions that sleep, downtime, family time, and lunch are expendable items, the employees who fuel the corporate engine wonder aloud why they are chronically tired and uninspired. Coming up with ways to work smarter requires creativity, but creativity is rarely the product of fatigue and malaise. You are not alone if you recall being struck with a creative lightning bolt while taking a shower, walking the dog, or kicking up your legs at the end of a long day. Creativity, the ability to focus, and calm self-assurance – all of which are the real drivers of productivity – thrive when the mind is allowed to take a break.
Right about this time, you are likely thinking, “That’s all well and good, but how many of us have the opportunity to take a quick run, jump in the shower, or grab a 20-minute nap at work?” I hear you. And you don’t think I would have taken you down this path without the breadcrumbs to lead you back, do you? Several days ago, I stumbled upon a Harvard Business Review video by Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of The Energy Project, in which Mr. Schwartz discusses the four rituals he follows to be his most productive. For those without the time or inclination to watch the video (case in point), Mr. Schwartz’s four rituals are:
1. Keep a specific bedtime.
2. Prioritize one key task per day.
3. List new ideas and tasks as you think of them.
4. Question yourself when others guilt you (my words) into focusing on things you shouldn’t be focused on.
Mr. Schwartz’s list is just fine, but what better productivity ritual to add to that list than tea? Of course, I am hardly the first person to make that suggestion. Another T Ching contributor, Maria Uspenski, wrote about boosting productivity with tea last September. But to Mr. Schwartz’s primary point – that creating rituals is one of the best ways to free the creative mind – tea is a natural choice. Beginning with those oft-mentioned Chinese and Japanese Buddhist monks of yore, for whom tea was the answer to more productive meditation sessions, tea has proven itself time and again to be one of the best ways to remain alert, refreshed, calm, and productive.