Do you get more done by trying to do less? Koreans vs. Norwegians.

The irony of today’s work world is that the people who try to achieve too much actually get less done. I have seen countless blog articles on the topic, but let’s look at the issue in an international way to make it more interesting.

In business, the more you get done, the more money you make, right?
The modern consensus is that business people are trying to do too much, which causes them to lose track of priorities. An hour spent on a priority during your peak hours of focus might get you a lot more long term revenue for your business than an hour spent doing busy-work. The solution is to make an itemized list of all the tasks you do daily and figure out which ones not to do, and which other tasks you can do in a more efficient way. I am constantly redefining my work routing and getting better at it all the time.

The Asian consensus defies current reasoning
In Asia, the culture demands that you are busy and look busy. Busy is good, not busy is lazy. Taking time off is bad, and having no time to enjoy yourself is a sign of success even though it is accompanied with misery. The country in Asia that puts in the most hours is Korea. However, Korean productivity is horrible. Why is this? They spend too many hours at work without doing much to refresh themselves. They have not enough time for friends and family, meditation, long walks, prayer, or other activities which refresh the mind, soul, and body. The one social activity which they do too much of is going out with the boss and co-workers and having a wild night of drinking which is socially required. The next day they come to work hung over and cannot function properly. Although Koreans put in a lot of hours, they are typically burned out, hung over, and they have been pushed far too hard since age eight to over study, overwork, and have no life. On a brighter note, the Korean government is seeing that over studying and overworking is bad for quality of life and have been creating laws to moderate this culturally detrimental behavior.

Norwegians work the least yet get the most done
In Norway, they work an average of 33 hours per week and have at least 21 vacation days compared to Koreans who work around 43 hours per week and only get 15 paid vacation days per week. Some Koreans do 52 to 68 hours per week too. However, it has been found that the value of an hour of work done by a Norwegian is the most valuable compared to any hour done by an average person in any other country. Somehow the Norwegians know how to make those 33 hours count while the rest of us are just shifting papers around.

So, what are the secrets of these folks in Norway?
I read a bit about Norway and found they eat out less, and have smaller portion sizes. They eat a lot of fish, berries, meat and potatoes. Fish and berries are extremely light and healthy. I’m not so sure about the meat and potatoes though. People in Norway also are more happy to walk to work or ride a bike while the rest of the world gets stuck in a traffic jam breathing in toxic fumes. There is not much pollution in Norway either as they are not that populated, and have a good public transportation system. So, in addition to the high IQ’s that Norway merits, their healthy lifestyle might help their brains be prone to higher productivity. On a more comical note, people are less friendly in Norway, so they probably spend more time actually working instead of gossiping with co-workers or browsing posts on Facebook.

So, how can you get more work done in less time?
It pays to plan your work-time better instead of letting it happen. If you schedule your week or month ahead of time and figure out exactly what needs to be done and how to do it, that will help. Taking walks, breaks, meditating regularly and spending time with friends and family help too. If you maintain your health properly, you’ll be more efficient as well, so don’t drink too much or eat too much heavy foods that slow you down!

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