The Average Employee Works 3 Hours Out Of Every 8

How to find 1–2 hours a day to achieve your career goals in half the time.

Tim Denning
Apr 5 · 5 min read

Many of us go to work each day and don’t feel like working. It’s normal and even the most motivated people experience days like this. If I’m honest, at least two out of every five days, are days I don’t feel as though I want to work.

The thought of having to post another blog post, find another image for an article, navigate another team members crisis at work, or talk to another client that wants to rip my face off because their business is failing, can make wanting to go to work a difficult endeavor.

Numerous studies have shown that the average employee only works three out of a typical eight hour work day. Why is that?

Many of us only work a small part of our work day because we lack two things:


#1 Self-discipline

The average employee does such little work because they don’t practice self-discipline. It’s easier to gossip about other colleagues, complain about the company, and procrastinate by talking about TV shows from the night before.

I don’t believe for a second that the average worker is stupid and wastes time on purpose. I believe that self-discipline doesn’t come naturally and is easily forgotten. The typical workday is short and doing the difficult tasks like finishing that spreadsheet, making that sales call, telling off that employee or talking to an angry customer takes energy.

It’s easier to avoid these typical work tasks and hope that they go away or the business doesn’t follow up to see if you’re doing your job. You can go your entire career avoiding these energy draining tasks and not doing the work.

You can over-indulge at work events, knock off early, waste time on your computer pretending to work or entertain every conversation or interruption that comes your way.

But when you choose to be disciplined and spend your time at work doing the tasks you know you must do, the result is much better. In short, being disciplined helps you find more time at work.


#2 No practical ways to recover

Doing very little work is also the result of not having outlets to recover. Work takes energy, focus and creativity to get it done.

In order to work more than three hours at work, you need small ways to recover throughout the day. Without recovery, you lose the precious energy you have and then distractions take over.

Small hacks like walking around the office every hour for a few minutes, grabbing some water, going for a quick walk outside, eating a piece of fruit or indulging for a few minutes on social media (my favorite is LinkedIn) are all ways to recover, reset and restart your brain ready to do work again.


Finding the extra time

The average of five hours a day that is wasted at work is lost in the following:

  • Unplanned meetings
  • Company-wide events that often don’t need your attendance
  • Excessive social functions (lunches, birthdays, going aways)
  • Avoiding the serial time waster (every team has one)
  • Meetings that run over time
  • Time spent going back and forth in instant messaging

I’ve found more time in my day by time-boxing: email, instant message, phone calls and SMS, to a few allocated times through the day.

When I’m sitting down and trying to do the difficult work, my phone is out of sight. When I need to do deep work I can be found in a meeting room with the door shut, laptop on and water right next to me. These short vacations into meeting rooms are my favorite and I seem to get twice the amount of work done.

There’s something about silence, a closed door and a room to yourself that seems conducive to doing your work.

Finding ways to take events out of your diary can also help. I have a rule that says I won’t attend any meeting that goes for more than one hour. If I’m forced to go for some reason, I typically excuse myself at the one hour mark.


What to do with the extra 1–2 hours

If you follow a few of the tips mentioned in this article, you’ll find yourself being able to work more than the standard three out of eight hours per day.

All you need to be able to do is work an extra 1–2 hours a day to be able half the amount of time it takes to achieve your career goals. No one’s asking you to hustle till you die or work until the late hours of the night to get where you want to go in your career faster.

All it takes is to master 1–2 hours of additional deep work each day. It’s the type of work that you know you must do but put off because it’s challenging. That’s the sort of work I’m talking about in this article.

Find a way to be just that little bit more productive at work and you’ll see your career move a lot faster than those who only work three hours a day in real terms.


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Tim Denning

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Viral Blogger - Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship. www.timdenning.net

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +479K people. Follow to join our community.