4 Hacks to Make Your 8-Hour Day Super Productive
Like our ancestors, we’re expected to put in 8-hour days, working in long, continuous blocks of time, with few or no breaks. Heck, most people even work right through their lunch hour!
This antiquated approach to work isn’t helping us, it’s holding us back.
The Research Study
A study recently conducted by the Draugiem Group used a computer application to track employees’ work habits.
Specifically, the application measured how much time people spent on various tasks and compared this to their productivity levels. In the process of measuring people’s activity, they stumbled upon a fascinating finding: the length of the workday didn’t matter much; what mattered was how people structured their day. In particular, people who were religious about taking short breaks were far more productive than those who worked longer hours.
The Productivity Formula
The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest.
People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish – meaning they didn’t check Facebook “real quick”, or watched YouTube, or get distracted by e-mails, or chat with people.
When they felt fatigue (again, after about an hour), they took short breaks, during which they completely separated themselves from their work. This helped them to dive back in refreshed for another productive hour of work.
Your Brain Wants an Hour On, 15 Minutes Off
People who have discovered this magic productivity ratio crush their competition because they tap into a fundamental need of the human mind: the brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15–20 minutes).
The best way to beat exhaustion and frustrating distractions is to get intentional about your workday. Instead of working for an hour or more and then trying to battle through distractions and fatigue, when your productivity begins to dip, take this as a sign that it’s time for a break.
The 4 Hacks:
- Break your day into hourly intervals. If you want to be a literalist, you can plan your day around 52-minute intervals if you like, but an hour works just as well.
- Respect your hour. Refrain from disrespecting your hour by texting, checking e-mails, or doing a quick Facebook check, you defeat the entire purpose of the approach.
- Have an actual rest. In the study at Draugiem, they found that employees who took more frequent rests than the hourly optimum were more productive than those who didn’t rest at all. Breaks such as walking, reading, and chatting are the most effective forms of recharging because they take you away from your work. On a busy day, it might be tempting to think of dealing with e-mails or making phone calls as breaks, but they aren’t, so don’t give in to this line of thought.
- Don’t wait until your body tells you to take a break. If you wait until you feel tired to take a break, it’s too late—you’ve already missed the window of peak productivity. Keeping to your schedule ensures that you work when you’re the most productive and that you rest during times that would otherwise be unproductive. Remember, it’s far more productive to rest for short periods than it is to keep on working when you’re tired and distracted.