Modern life can be quite demanding. Between juggling work, family demands, and everything else, we often respond by putting in longer hours, and burning the candle at both ends. We push ourselves to work longer. We work nights and weekends, which means less time to sleep, less healthy meals, less time to unwind.
It may seem counterintuitive, but research has found that productivity has less to do with the number of hours we work, and more to do with the rest we have.
There was a study done in 2014 that used a time tracking app to find out what the most productive employees were doing that set them apart. What they found was that the top 10% of productive employees didn’t put in longer hours than others. The key to their productivity was that they took frequent breaks. For every 52 minutes of focused work they did, they took a 17 minute break to recover.
Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, recommends building a habit of “deep work” - to be able to focus without distraction. And to make the most of our downtime, he suggests we “be lazy.”
So here are some tips to help you do more by doing less:
TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
Take regular breaks throughout the workday. Our bodies have 90 to 120 minute cycles where our bodies my from a high energy state to a low energy state. The body begins to crave a period of recovery near the end of those cycles, so plan your breaks accordingly. If you don’t let yourself recover, you’ll notice signals like restlessness, hunger, yawning, and the inability to concentrate.
Set a timer if you have to, or use something like the Apple Watch or our Mi Band 2 Fitness Tracker to remind you to get up periodically.
When you take your breaks, physically get up away from your desk! Walk around, talk to coworkers, listen to music. Do something that is completely unrelated to the work you do.
FOCUS BY ELIMINATING DISTRACTIONS
You can’t expect an increase by only working less. When you do work, you have to focus. The first step is to eliminate distractions. It’s hard! There is a never ending stream of emails, text messages, phone calls, meetings, social media alerts, news, etc. Do what you can to eliminate or minimize these distractions when you work. There are even apps you can install on your laptop that prevent you from going online!
After you complete a bigger project, be sure to reward yourself! It’s okay to indulge yourself once in a while and give yourself a treat. It can be something simple like letting yourself binge watch some Netflix and eat ice cream, or treating yourself to a massage, or maybe a weekend getaway.