Want to Be More Productive? Do Less

Here in the U.S., we tend to be workaholics. According to a Gallup poll, Americans employed full-time are likely to work 47 hours a week, which is the equivalent to almost 6 full workdays! It’s no wonder that so many of Americans are exhausted, drained and hate their jobs.

Is working more actually necessary?

According to a 2016 survey, the average employee only actually works for two hours and 53 minutes out of an eight hour workday. The rest is filled with distractions, conversations, breaks, eating, and blank staring.

It turns out that cramming more hours into the workweek may be encouraging us to actually get less work done, not more. And businesses—even giants like Amazon—are starting to catch on.

One business in particular—a New Zealand-based firm called Perpetual Guardian—decided to pay its employees for five days of work but only asked them to work four days. With their workweeks reduced from 40 hours to 32 hours for a period of two months, the firm asked researchers to study the effects.

The result? A 24 percent increase in productivity among all employees.

Workers were more creative, punctual and dedicated while on the clock. And with extra time away from work, employees were able to spend more time with family, cooking homemade meals, exercising and taking trips. They returned to work feeling more refreshed, productive and ready.

Another experiment in Gothenburg, Sweden, where there was a city-wide mandate for a six hour workday, revealed similar gains in productivity. Workers got as much done as they would in an eight hour workday, if not more.

How Working Less Makes You More Productive

Work less time, but get more done? It’s all about working smarter, not harder.

Consider how much work you actually get done towards the end of the day. We’re talking between 2 pm and 5 pm. Odds are, it’s not much. Due to circadian and hormonal shifts, this is a time where most people lose focus, lose productivity and would much rather be napping.

So why are we forcing ourselves to work? The concept is reminiscent of Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Workweek, which gives readers hacks to work smarter and for fewer hours—while still making a living.

While you may not be able to work four day week (or four hour weeks!), there are ways that you can work smarter, so you feel less drained and get more done. Here are a few productivity enhancing hacks to adopt into your own work live.

Coffee break

Create a focus signal.

If you’re in the zone, distractions are your greatest threat. Create a system to warn fellow employees, friends, or family members that you are deep in a project and cannot be disturbed.

Whether it is a hand signal, a sign on the door or the classical music you play when you’re ‘in it’, thwarting distractions before they happen is crucial for getting things done when you are actually feeling productive. (Also be sure to turn off your phone and stay clear of distracting websites.)

Only work at work.

Your lunch breaks, coffee breaks, midday hikes, nights and weekends are not a time to catch up on emails or projects.

When you’re not working, you need to focus of having fun and refreshing yourself. Otherwise, you’ll just become more and more run down and your work will actually begin to suffer because you are offering yourself no reprieve.

We ALL need time off, regularly and often. When you’re not working, make sure you are truly not working.

Don’t push beyond your capacity.

If you’ve been working on a project for two hours and are starting to fade, walk away. Finish the project tomorrow if you have to.

Most of us cannot focus on a specific task for more than a few hours. After that, our minds start to wander, creative thinking nosedives and every tiny action suffers.

Plan your projects so that everything isn’t a crunch. Give yourself plenty of time to finish things by starting early. That way, you can give yourself ample time for mental rests and resets, ensuring you do truly your best and most creative work.

Could this work for you? Would you be more incentivized to worker smarter and and faster if you could have more time off? Share your thoughts with the community below!


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