People are often surprised when they discover the millions of people who choose to work independently in the #GigEconomy. Various studies show that their motivation is the desire for flexibility; some want to be their own boss, or more specifically, avoid having any boss at all. Others want to make more money. But for many if not most, it is that notion of control – control over what you do and when you do it. The question of when is actually a more nuanced one than you might think, and I submit could offer insights into why so many independent workers feel more effective and efficient. Many independent workers have the freedom to work when they can do their best work, and that can lead to far greater fulfillment.
This occurred to me when listening to a recent Ted Radio hour show, entitled “Attention Please”, which discussed how the forces in today’s digital world that were constantly competing for our attention Amishi Jha, a neuroscientist, noted that this frenzy means that many people can no longer focus for periods of time We are naturally distracted, which can be a bad thing, if our distraction is occurring when we are in the middle of an important meeting or briefing. To alleviate this loss of focus we must take the time to deliberately tune in and focus.
For many workers, this distraction factor can be an issue. Most work environments don’t offer opportunities to recharge when needed. Workers who have a traditional schedule just have to power through those distractions. Some companies do offer mindfulness training and meditation rooms to help, but this is an exception rather than a rule. However independent workers, may have more freedom to redirect their thinking, since they may not be operating within the constraints of a typical work day.
Figuring out how to have the time to do your best work is also a theme in Dan Pink’s newest book, When, which is a great read. As Ecclesiastes first said, “for every time there is a season, “and Pink provides far more data around that very important perspective, noting the importance of time and sequence in everything we do. He offers tremendous insights into the primacy of timing, including the fact that you want all of your surgical procedures to be in the morning.
Pink’s research looked into the natural rhythms of humanity. A certain percentage of us are larks, or very early risers, others are owls, who are most productive at night, and most of us are “third birds” who have our best energy in the morning. Our circadian rhythms give us good energy in the morning, but then it tends to wane in the afternoon. (Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to be the afternoon speaker at a conference, knows this problem.)
As such, he suggests, the best time to do cognitive work for most of us is typically 2-3 hours after we first wake up. For many of us, that time is taken up with exercising and or commuting. The latter fact could explain why you may have some brilliant ideas on the bus. Similarly, to offset the wane factor, her recommends breaks of 17 minutes for every 52 minutes worked and is a firm believer in naps. (Do check out his recipe for a “nappucino.”) For most workers that type of schedule isn’t an option.
Independent workers, when not on a client site, can do what they need to so to stay focused. They can work at the hours when they feel most energized, take breaks and even naps if need be. Being in control of your time contributes to your ability to do your best work. Doing your best work is what keeps you coming back for more and your clients as well.
As a gig worker myself, I can relate to all of this discussion about timing. In fact, I think it is about time I take my Labrador for a walk.