The 8-hour workday was created during the industrial revolution as an effort to decrease on the number of hours of manual labor that workers were forced to endure on the factory floor. This breakthrough was a more humane approach to work two hundred years ago, yet it possesses outdated and ineffective approach for us today. If you want to be as productive as possible, you have to leave this relic and find a new approach.
The best way to structure workday
A study 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. They found out that the length of the workday didn’t matter much; what mattered was how people structured their day. Specifically, the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it.
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 concentration in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to complete. During the 17 minutes of break, they are completely removed from the work they’re doing. They didn’t check Facebook “real quick” or get distracted by e-mails.
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 stay refresh for another productive hour of work.
Your brain wants an hour on, 15 minutes off
The brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15–20 minutes). For most of us, this natural ebb and flow of energy leaves us wavering between focused periods of high energy followed by less productive periods, when we tire and succumb to distractions.
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.
There are a lot of surprising benefits to this rest time. First and foremost to your levels of productivity, working for long periods of time can be harm to your level of engagement with a certain task. Repeating tasks leads to cognitive boredom, which in turn halts your ability to thrive at whatever you’re doing. The human brain just wasn’t built to focus for eight hours at a time—the best way to refresh attention span is to take a break. But beware not to overdo any of them. Take too many breaks and you may enter the realm of procrastination.
How to make your breaks in 8-hour workday
First, step away from the computer and the smartphone. Do some little exercises in your office, or step outside and take a walk around to clear your mind and get your body moving. Fresh air combined with a change of scene can boost productivity.
Or, if you must stay on the computer for some reason, watch some funny animal videos—it’s shown that looking at cute pictures of cats and dogs can actually lead to increased productivity. Also you can spend five minutes checking Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. Monitor your time however and don’t let yourself be distracted for more than five minutes.
Chat with your colleagues. They may share a new perspective on the task at hand. Or you can go out to lunch with your colleagues or by yourself. Judging from the habits of my colleagues, lunch out of the office is a dying habit. But a healthy meal and good conversation can be nourishing on multiple levels.
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