“It is not the amount of hours in your work, but the amount of work in your hours that count.” – Neil Patel.
For years, I have been talking about ‘working smarter, not harder’ to increase your productivity. However, that concept can admittedly be somewhat vague. What does “working smarter” really mean?
What I love about this quote is how simple yet powerful it is. So many of my clients are working harder than ever before! They are coming into the office at 5:30 or 6 in the morning so they can get a few hours of actual work done before they get bombarded with emails, interruptions and the never ending flow of meetings. Then, they work late to ‘catch up’ from their crazy day and get ready for tomorrow. This means that on average, they are working 12-14 hours each day, yet overall productivity is steadily decreasing in the United States.
How do you maximize the amount of work in your hours and increase your productivity? Here are 3 ideas:
Cure Your Email Addiction
Start by committing to checking email only during a few scheduled times each day. Four times per day is a good place to start. When you are checking email during one of those four times, remember that you are not going to respond to every request – you are simply going to process your emails. That means you need to decide in which category the email goes – delete, file, action. The first two categories are easy. However if the email requires an action, there are generally two rules: 1) If it will take you 2 minutes or less to respond, do it now; 2) If it is a longer project, add it to your task list to deal with when the time comes.
Set Firm Boundaries
In recent years, with the proliferation of smart phones, work is no longer a place we go to, but a state of mind. It is easy to reply to ‘just one more email’ and read one more report when we should be enjoying down time with our loved ones. But we can re-train our brains to know when it’s time to work if we set firm boundaries about our work times. The key with boundaries is that they are firm and non-negotiable. If you decide that you are going to work every day from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., then those are the hours that you work, no “just this time.” Parkinson’s Law states that our “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Limiting the amount of time you spend on work will make you more efficient.
Take Frequent Breaks
Our ability to perform tasks has diminishing returns over time. We need breaks strategically served between our work sessions to increase our productivity. Multiple studies have identified the ideal formula as working for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break. Structuring your day with blocks of uninterrupted work followed by these short breaks will ensure that your energy level stays high throughout the day, which will in turn increase your productivity.
More hours doesn’t mean better work. By incorporating these three tips into your daily routine, you will make that the amount of work in your hours count.