You might just be more productive if you work less

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to tell if you’re working too many hours. But the thought of working too many hours conjures up images of arriving at the office early and staying late. Certainly it means a little more than the usual 40-hour week.

So are there situations where it would actually be more productive for you to work fewer hours? How can you find out what the ideal workday or workweek is for you?

What is your mix of tasks?

The roots of the workweek come from manufacturing, where you help build more products as the shift time increases. For people doing knowledge work, there is a less direct correlation between the time spent on work and productivity.

In general, there are five main types of work that people do:

  • Transmission of information within the organization (meetings, email, calls)
  • Dealing with customers and clients
  • Development of work products (reports, assignments, coding, analysis)
  • brainstorming
  • expand knowledge and skills

The percentage of time people spend on the first of these elements (meetings and email in particular) has grown significantly with the rise of email and team messaging apps.

This shift has three disadvantages. It reduces the time available for future-oriented activities, such as generating ideas and learning new things. E-mails and other text-based communications are always available, encouraging a continuous work day. They also create an illusion of progress where a lot of time is spent passing information rather than generating new business.

It’s worth considering what your optimal mix of tasks would be if you had a choice. Focus on creating a good mix of communications, focus on current business and developing future opportunities. Find ways to limit aspects of your work that don’t improve the quality of your work.

What are your biggest challenges?

There are some working challenges that are best completed by putting your nose to the whetstone and moving forward. Popular approaches like Angela Duckworth’s grit tend to focus on such cases. For example, after James Dyson got a glimpse of building a vacuum cleaner that didn’t need a bag, he spent five years developing prototypes. He knew he had a good idea. He just needed to find a specific configuration that worked well enough to be used in a reliable product.

Other work challenges are unlikely to result in long hours alone. When the problems you routinely solve require a creative extension of the current work, just sitting at your desk waiting for inspiration may not be the best way forward. Get out of the office. The exercise. Get away from the problem for a while. Read in areas unrelated to the specific problem you need to solve.

This time away from the problem can be transformative. They will describe the problem differently on return than before, which may lead you in new directions. The paradox is that when you need to be creative as an integral part of your job, time outside of work can make you more productive.

What is your source of growth?

No matter how many years you have been working, you should always focus on your future growth. The business world is changing rapidly and you will need new knowledge and skills to adapt. But much of what you need to know (and know how to do) goes beyond what is directly relevant to your job as it’s set up now.

In fact, there are times when things that you currently consider hobbies can have an impact on your professional life. For example, I started playing the saxophone in my mid-thirties because I’ve always been interested in learning to play the instrument. This clearly had nothing to do with my work as a psychology professor; Still, there were a number of lessons I took from my experiences playing jazz that have impacted the way I write and speak about it Psychology of leadership and career. If I hadn’t taken the time off work to pick up this new skill, I never would have found these parallels.

The fact is, you never know where your next great idea will come from. You will only know you need expertise in this field after you determine that it is relevant to a project you are working on. Working long hours has an opportunity cost. Some of that time could be devoted to other experiences that could very well impact your future productivity. You might just be more productive if you work less


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