Why You Have to Read “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working”

A Personal Story

I finally left the office at 8:30pm.  It was cold and rainy out.  I think I got home on autopilot.  I pulled into the driveway and pushed the garage door opener.  Nothing happened.  “&!@$!” I muttered.

I grabbed my laptop and piled some files on top of it.  Then, juggling a pile of office homework, I fumbled for my keys.  I went up to the door and tried to put my key in the door, but it wouldn’t fit.  “&%$!” I muttered again.  And then I looked up and saw my neighbor coming to the door.  “Ivana, what are you doing here?”

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I was so outside myself that evening that I had actually gone to my next-door neighbor’s house instead of my own.  It would be funny if it weren’t such a sadly defining moment. That was when I knew for sure that the way I was working wasn’t working for me.  I had all the signs:

  • I wasn’t sleeping – at all.
  • I couldn’t eat (I know, I know, it’s fun to wish for until you’re on the stress diet).
  • My mind would literally shut down and I would either forget things or be swamped with unstructured thoughts.
  • I was nervous and paranoid about everything.  I would sit down at a meeting and my knees would shake under the table.

If this sounds like you, then you’re the ideal candidate to read the new book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance.

Tony Schwartz and His Team Provide Real Explanations and Recommendations

When I was in the middle of this stressed-out point in my career, I read all kinds of books in an effort to help myself get over the stress.  But none of them had the level of context, expertise and practical advice that The Way We’re Working does.

The book begins by providing context.  Schwartz (@tonyschwartz on Twitter) has spent 30 years studying, writing about and coaching people to perform at their best.  When you read “Part I: A New Way of Working,” you’ll have the feeling that someone is finally putting into words something you’ve always known deep inside yourself is true.

“All this furious activity exacts a series of silent costs: less capacity for focused attention, less time for any given task, and less opportunity to think reflectively and long term.  When we finally do get home at night, we have less energy for our families, less time to wind down and relax and fewer hours to sleep.  We return to work each morning feeling less rested, less than fully engaged and less able to focus.”

Part One goes on to confirm that we’ve created a world of work which assumes that humans are like machines or computers and perform best in a one-dimensional way — that in order to be most productive we need to work better, longer, faster.

Instead, Schwartz writes, human beings are complex systems comprised of Four Primary Needs:

  1. Sustainability/Physical
  2. Security/Emotional
  3. Self-Expression/Mental
  4. Significance/Spiritual

Part One goes on to explain each of these in detail; then each is given its own section in the book.  At the end of each chapter, Schwartz offers  action steps.  Here is an example from Chapter 15:

The most common source of external distraction at work is e-mail.  Think about how you’re currently managing it.  Write down the costs and benefits of managing e-mail the way you do.  Now list the ways you might retain those benefits while minimizing the costs.

A second source is internal chatter in our brains.  Meditation or quieting our mind is one way to get focus.  Start by counting your breaths in and out up to 10.  Can you stay focused on counting your breath? Add more sets of 10 as you get better.

Read the Book. Take the Audit. Read the Book.

One of my favorite features of this book is the interactive component.  There is a complementary “Energy Audit” that you can take at The Energy Project Web Site.  Here is a snapshot of one set of questions:
energy audit
Once you’ve taken the audit, they will send you your results.  Take the results you’ve received, then visit the TIPS section.  Here you’ll find an interactive gauge for each of the Four Primary Needs and supporting action tips on the right.

Who Will Benefit From This Book

If you are a business owner, if you have people working for you, if you have a family waiting for you when you get home – this book is for you.  I originally wanted to recommend this for jerks, bullies or slave drivers, but who would admit to that?  Your employees aren’t going to tell you.  Your family might, but you might just ignore them.  So I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re working in today’s overly stimulated and connected environment, you’re probably at risk for having any or all of your four primary needs going unmet.

Read this book for yourself.  Read it for your family and friends. Read it for your health.  Pick up your copy today.  You might even want to give it away for the holidays so that people can use the tips for the coming year.  But why wait?

Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."