Lessons that need to be relearned when it comes to productivity

One of the hardest parts of any job is staying focused and on task throughout the day in the face of endless distractions (especially in the warmer months when you’d rather be at the beach.) The constant flow of texts, social media, and emails can make us feel both stuck and like we’re wading through sand to get things done on some days. Luckily, there are “hacks” for being more productive throughout your day and most everything we assume about productivity is incorrect. Here are three lessons about productivity that need to be relearned.

More hours= more productivity

One lesson that needs to be relearned is that working extra hours does not mean better quality work. According to CNBC , working more than 50 hours a week can actually lessen the quality of your work with workers who spent more than 55 hours a week on a task showed degraded quality in work. While the average person is working 47 hours each week in the U.S. compared to the standard 40, some of the most productive people in the office are working less than 40 hours per week . This could be because most people are only really productive for a short amount of time during the day. A study published from Vouchercloud.com found that on average people are only truly productive for two hours and fifty-three minutes each day. So what else are they doing with the 8+ hours they are in the office? Vouchercloud.com found the following:

  1. Checking social media — 47% (44 minutes, spent doing this during working day).
  2. Reading news websites — 45% (one hour and five minutes).
  3. Discussing out-of-work activities with colleagues — 38% (40 minutes).
  4. Making hot drinks — 31% (17 minutes).
  5. Smoking breaks — 28% (23 minutes).
  6. Texting and instant messaging — 27% (14 minutes).
  7. Eating snacks — 25% (eight minutes).
  8. Making food in the office — 24% (seven minutes).
  9. Making calls to partners and friends — 24% (18 minutes).
  10. Searching for new jobs — 19% (26 minutes).

The mornings are for tedious tasks and catching up

According to Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics, generally people are the most productive during the first two hours after becoming fully awake. Unfortunately, most people use these crucial morning hours to do things such as check emails, clean up our desks, browse through the news or twitter, and other mindless tasks. Relearning to save mindless tasks for later in the afternoon can actually help you use these morning hours for more productivity and organization.

Taking one, long lunch break will help clear your head

With all this information on what makes people unproductive, how exactly do workers stay productive? A known way to increase productivity is to make sure that you avoid the eating lunch at your desk trap and take proper lunch break (where you actually step out of your office.) Many people feel that if they do take a lunch break, they need to power through the rest of the day without stopping. A study conducted by the University of Toronto found that 10% of employees with the highest productivity didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else, didn’t even work full eight-hour days, and surprisingly took more, regular breaks than anyone else. Specifically, they worked for 52 minutes then took a 17 minute break. Those 17 minutes were not spent scrolling their instagram feeds, watching a youtube video, or checking their personal emails either. Taking a walk, speaking with coworkers about non work related tasks, or relaxing reading a book were some common activities the most productive employees did while on break.

Originally published at www.thesquarefoot.com on July 8, 2015.

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