zen habits : breathe

Cut Your Work Week to Get More Done

This post was written by Glen Stansberry of LifeDev. LifeDev is a personal development blog, with a complementary Productivity Tools blog.

Many times we’re faced with more than we think we can possibly handle during one workday. And common sense says that more time you spend working, the more you’ll get done.

Not true.

Sure, sure… there are a few robotic exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking most of us can’t just work hard for 8 hours straight. It’s just not healthy. But more importantly, breaks can help you be more productive. In fact, I’d argue that the less you work, the more you can get done.

Shrinking the Workday
I work on the web all day, and I’ve found that the more I’m away from my computer, the more I get done. Sounds ridiculous, right? I assure you, good readers, it’s not. If I set limits to how long I’m slaving away on the internet, it will pay off as the day drags on. I have more focus, more stamina, and doggone it… I just have more fun.

For example: when I’m at work, I tend to get bogged down with details. For some reason, the more time I think have to work on something, the less work I do. This is what we like to call Procrastination. Everybody knows what this is. Some of us embrace it, others are scared to death of it. Regardless, it’s not a good thing. In my case, I’d spend all day doing virtually nothing, and stay up until the wee hours of the morning finishing deadlines. So, I decided to try a week of turning off my computer after 5pm. Long story short, it was a very good thing. My brain had to come to grips with the fact that it couldn’t rely on that late-night crutch, and it forced me to get more done.

Tiny Breaks, Big Results
Aside from limiting the actual amount of time I can work on the computer, I also take more breaks every hour. I use a spiffy little tool that makes sure that I take a 30 second break every 8 minutes, and a 10 minute break every 50 minutes. However, I’ve found that taking breaks doesn’t just mean going over to the water cooler. It’s during these 10 minute breaks that the real magic happens.

For starters, I make sure to get away from the computer (or whatever tool I’m using at the time). I’ve found that if I do mind-numbing tasks like unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry, it gives my mind a chance to unwind and to start thinking outside of the box. It’s during these times that I can solve issues that I’ve been working on for the previous 50 minutes. For some reason, removing yourself from the situation tends to give your mind an opportunity to solve problems. I think it’s the fact that stepping away gives your mind a chance to look at the situation as a whole.

I’ve come up with some of my best ideas for websites not by looking at other sites, but while running, doing housework, driving to the bank… anywhere but sitting in front of the computer. The key is writing what you find down. If you can capitalize on these break times, you’ll work through many problems in tiny bits of time that would have taken much longer otherwise. And you might even come up with some good ideas in the meantime.

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