Let me start by saying there is no self interest at work here. None at all.
There’s nothing wrong with a healthy work ethic, except when it gets in the way of being productive. Those 60 hour work weeks might make you feel productive, essential to the operation of things. But in truth, research finds that overwork actually saps your energy and leaves you less productive than you might have been if you just worked the 40 hours everyone else does. Hard to hear, I know.
Science is telling us that sitting for long periods (even for the physically fit) is not good for your health; now we’re learning the same may be true for effort and productivity. More and more research is finding that the longer you stay in front of that screen the less productive you get. That’s why getting up, going for a walk, taking a lunch break away from the office, or even having a conversations with people you like has become such popular behaviors among workers looking to be more productive.
Imagine — being productive without unending drudgery.
And there’s this; our brains aren’t even set up for continuous thought. We’re more productive (creative, focused) during shorter increments of time, say 15 minutes of solid effort and then a quick break. It’s using the brain like you use a muscle; working it then resting for a bit. When you think about it, that makes sense. Especially in the creative work world, most often flashes of the (best) inspiration come “out of the blue” during off hours… when you’re driving home or cooking dinner.
Off work time can be, and often is, very productive time.
Of course this isn’t a comfortable mind set for the work obsessed. And technology has contributed to an ever increasing pace and ability to be “on” at all hours. As we struggle to handle it all, the key may just be doing the opposite — taking time away. Unplugging. Relaxing and recharging.
To be your most productive self, here are some suggestions that might improve the quality and quantity of the work you turn out. Feel free to share the with co-workers or supervisors.
- Take a walk (around the building) outside as a change of scene, the fresh air is revitalizing.
- Workout as physical activity gets your heart pumping, blood flowing and oxygen to the brain.
- Go out to lunch, even if you eat a bag lunch outside, as the chance to be stimulated by a different place will help revive you.
- Run a short (easy) errand, taking care of such business helps you feel more productive.
- Talk with a co-worker/friend and not about work, as conversation can stimulate creativity and new ideas.
- Try another mental distraction for no more than 10 minutes, as this gives your mind a nice change.
- Get a drink of water, cup of coffee/tea or a healthy snack to refuel your body.
- Take power naps of just 20 minutes to refresh you and improves learning.
All these are great ideas for the workday, but you also ned to schedule (and take) regular vacations to keep your productivity high. According to researchers, we are more productive for a full month after we come back from time off. The good news is that vacations don’t have to be long to be effective — 3 to 6 days is a great length. Long enough to revive you, not so long that you loose touch with everything.
More time on vacation has actually ben shown to improve performance and slow turnover. You see? All good things.