Many have heard the phrase “work smarter and not harder”, which sounds great in theory but is not always very clear on how to implement. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, work burnout is an all too common workplace occurrence, and working long hours every day to get all your assignments and tasks completed isn’t a great long-term solution. If you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished, here are some tips that may help you be more productive.
Working Harder in Shorter Bursts
Employees often feel that to get all their work completed they must put in long hours or work over the weekend, but usually working such long days leads to burnout and less effectiveness over time. In an article on the BBC, they cite a study which found that “Surprisingly, the top 10% of employees with the highest productivity didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else – often they didn’t even work eight-hour days. Instead, the key to their productivity was that for every 52 minutes of focused work, they took a 17-minute break.” Working the standard 8 hours straight through may not be as conducive to productivity as we are led to believe.
Embrace Deep Work
Another tactic for completing more work in less time is through a strategy called “deep work”. There are a number of methods for ‘deep work’ but the overall idea is working on a specific project without interruptions or distractions. Professor and author Cal Newport who coined the phrase says, “Deep work is a state where your mind is free of attention residue and, therefore, is operating at the highest level of intensity that it can.” Throughout the day, many employees are frequently pulled off tasks whether through a co-worker asking a question, work emails popping up, or unplanned phone calls. These little interruptions throughout the day that pull you off task make it more challenging to stay focused on completing your job in a timely manner. For deep work, it’s smart to schedule in the time on your calendar like you would for an appointment or meeting and dedicate that time to focus, without any distractions.
In the same BBC article, they discuss the importance of leisure time throughout the day saying in part, “The key to being productive might be found in using that time effectively through embracing the slumps in our day – those moments when your productivity begins to ebb away, usually in the midmorning, directly after lunch or midafternoon.” Taking these small breaks and shifting our brain between being focused and unfocused is important for not experiencing burnout and feeling more energized throughout the day.