A few weeks ago, I came across an interesting article. Sweden was moving towards a standard 6-hour work day, away from the 8-hour work day that most countries follow. This decrease in work hours has taken the country by storm, with many Sweden-based businesses having already implemented the changes.
Many of us work ridiculous hours with the intent of getting more done. In fact, the average person works 50+ hours a week, which is proving to be quite ineffective. The truth is, a majority of people cannot concentrate on a task for eight excruciating hours. Hence Sweden’s move towards the 6-hour work day.
You might be asking yourself whether employees can get much done with shorter working hours. Well, the answer is YES!
Many managers in Sweden have reported increased focus, enhanced stamina, boosted motivation, reduced conflicts, raised efficiency, and a general increase in happiness.
With decreased work hours, employees are motivated to get more done in a shorter time, plus they get to spend more time on their personal activities and with their families.
Furthermore, distractions such as social media are discouraged during a 6-hour work day, meaning that the working hours are fully optimized.
You might be wondering whether it is possible to replicate this model in other countries; across industries and businesses. Well, that is what we will look at below. Before the end of this article you will know whether you can get more work done, in fewer hours.
The Productivity Cliff
We cannot talk about productivity without mentioning the productivity cliff. As I mentioned above, a large number of people across the globe work more than 50 hours each week. More often than not, these long hours are not accompanied by overtime pay. You are working for free!
If you are one of these people who works nights, weekends, and holidays, in the hopes of getting more work done, I have some news for you.
A recent study from John Pencavel at Stanford University shows that the productivity per hour (output) of an employee falls drastically after 50 hours per week. And after a 55-hour workweek, it is highly unlikely that an employee will get any work done at all.
Furthermore, this study shows that an employee who works 70 hours per week has an output equivalent to a person working 55 hours per week. That’s 15 hours down the drain.
The Alarming Pitfalls of Overworking Yourself
Long hours are not only detrimental to your productivity; they also have negative impacts on other areas of your life. Firstly, excessive working hours lead to sleep deprivation, which will negatively affect your mood, efficiency, and overall health.
Apart from being a sleep thief, long hours are also known to increase your risk of a stroke. Consider a UCL study of 600,000 men and women across 3 continents. This study has shown that those who work 55+ hours a week have a 33% greater risk of suffering from a stroke than those working 35-40 hours a week.
There is also increased risk for other cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease. And from an economic standpoint, longer hours increase employment turnover and absenteeism.
All in all, overworking yourself will lead to mental and physical fatigue, which will eventually lead to a fall in cognitive abilities and overall output.
In short, when you push yourself too hard, you can achieve a lot in the short term but little in the long term.
Ten Ways to Maximize Your Productivity
I know that the statistics above are tough to swallow, especially when you have to work multiple jobs to put a meal on your table. I can’t blame you for putting in a 70-hour workweek when you have a family to feed, children to nurture, and bills to pay.
Additionally, I can’t tell you to swear off long hours when you are building your business from the ground up.
What I can do is show you how to get the most out of fewer work hours. I can also show you how to create boundaries between home and work. In this way, you can achieve success with your current situation.
Here are ten great ways of maximizing your productivity levels.
1. Start your day early: Most people who live in the city have a similar start to their day. You wake up early, get stuck in traffic, and barely make it to work on time. There is no way that you can have a good start to your day if you have to go through this crazy routine.
That is why it is important to start your day early so that you can beat the morning madness. You will also find that you can get a lot done when there are few people around to distract you. So increase your productivity by getting up an hour or two earlier.
2. Stop multitasking: Multitasking is viewed as an admirable skill that allows you to get through more tasks in a short period. Unfortunately, this is a completely false notion. Multitasking has been proven to kill your focus and cut your productivity by up to 40%.
When you are multitasking, you are alternating between numerous tasks without giving any your full attention. Instead, you should allocate your time to one task, and carry out that task before moving on to the next. Put time limits on your tasks, and when the time runs out move on to the next task.
Additionally, prioritize your tasks, and cluster all similar tasks together.
3. Plan a day ahead: Planning is the secret to all success. By simply dedicating 15 minutes of your evening to planning for the following day, you can dramatically increase your productivity. Create a list of the tasks that you want to get done, in order of importance.
The next day you won’t be running around, trying to figure out what the hell you are supposed to be doing.
4. Work towards a goal: It is exciting to set big goals and to achieve them. However, it is sometimes daunting to accomplish a goal, especially when it seems like there are thousands of hurdles in front of you.
What you should do is break down your large goal into several small tasks, which are easy to accomplish. Each of these small tasks will bring you a step closer to the large goal that you are trying to achieve. Make sure to track your results, and remind yourself of your end goal. Goal breakdowns are a basic time management hack.
5. Delegate: If you are a sole entrepreneur, then skip this point. However, if you work with other people, then you need to pay attention. Delegation allows you to make use of the people that you work with, and you should not take this for granted.
If there is a task that someone else can complete well, delegate it to them. But don’t use this as an excuse to dump all of your unwanted work on the helpless intern.
6. Eliminate Distractions: In a world full of distractions, you need to find a way to minimize or eliminate all distractions in your environment. This includes putting off your computer, blocking social media, silencing your phone, and hanging a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your office door.
Create boundaries at work, so that you are only taking part in activities that will enhance your productivity. Also, keep your distance from the average achievers at work, as they are looking for any opportunity to drag you into an unproductive conversation.
7. Take short breaks: Believe it or not, humans have an attention span of 8 seconds (this rivals that of a goldfish). It is therefore not surprising that our brains start to go haywire and shut down when we work long hours.
That is why it is important to take a few breaks, to refocus our energy. By having a little quiet time in the middle of a hectic workday, you can elevate your productivity levels.
So take 5 minutes and shut yourself in your office or your boss’s office. Or maybe use your lunch hour to take a walk and breathe in some fresh air. You will see how much your creativity and energy increases after this.
8. Say no: Many of us are people pleasers. Saying no is therefore a hard thing to do. However, there are huge benefits in saying no. Apart from the small power rush that you might get, saying no also allows you to prioritize.
When you say no to extra projects, social engagements, and other similar tasks, you allow yourself to focus all your energy on one important task. This is as opposed to spreading yourself thin across several less important tasks. Commit yourself to your current task, and only accept other tasks once you have completed your current one.
9. Exercise: Exercise has a multitude of physical benefits such as weight loss, improved endurance, and enhanced flexibility. However, what few people know is that exercise has amazing productivity benefits as well.
When you exercise you release a chemical messenger known as GABA, which controls anxiety and reduces stress. Furthermore, exercise allows for improved creativity, meaning that you can go back to work with more innovative ideas.
So take 10 minutes or even an hour to go jogging, swimming, surfing, cycling, or even gardening. Find a physical activity that you love, and use it to increase your productivity.
10. Make the most out of your weekend: Many people work through their weekend, but it will serve you better if you take time off on Saturday and Sunday. Disconnect from your work and connect with your personal life.
Reflect on what you have achieved and what you want to achieve, without getting distracted by reports and meetings. Spend time with your family, and go on adventures with them. Pursue a passion and have fun. Take some time to yourself so that you can recharge, refocus, and relax.
And you can use your Sunday evening to make a plan for the upcoming week, so that the next five days are not hectic but productive. Whatever you choose to do over the weekend, ensure that you are not constantly exposed to your work and the accompanying stress.
As you can see, overworking yourself has proven to be futile. Not only does the productivity cliff prove this, but the shift in Sweden’s work hours also enhances the point. However, chances are your country is not about to change the standard number of working hours in a day.
What you can do is get more done in the hours that you do have, so that you are not spending your weeknights and weekends trying to finish up on your work. Instead of wasting the excessive hours that you have each week, you can get more done in less time with the productivity tips above.
I urge you to manage your time more wisely, and increase your output by working smarter instead of harder.
Before you leave, remember to share this with your friends, family, and colleagues who are struggling with poor productivity. And, if you are trying to overcome some of your productivity shortfalls, drop me a comment and let me know what steps you have taken to rectify your situation. And don’t forget to sign up for the Business Broken Down newsletter for instant updates on new posts.
It was great to talk with you today, and I hope to see you again next Monday. Have a productive week!