Did you ever have one of those days when you worked and worked hard for hours on end and still felt like you didn’t get anything done?
Well, you may be working harder than you need to.
Wait! That doesn’t make any sense!
But maybe it does?
I read an article last month on the Harvard Business Review blog called “How to Accomplish More by Doing Less” and it really struck a chord with me. Combined with my New Year’s resolution to manage my time better (and have more free time for the things I enjoy outside of work), I wanted to think this concept through for myself and for you.
You might be like me and be juggling what seems like a multitude of freelance projects, each of which need attention every workday. What is the most productive way to get everything done?
Tony Schwartz’s idea is if we work intensely for shorter periods of time and then take breaks, we will get more done and be more creative. But if we multitask for long periods, we get less and less productive as the day wears on and those good ideas will never come to us.
You want the maximum time per day to be spent at your maximum creativity, right?
Schwartz says if you start your day at 80% of your capacity and take no breaks, your productivity will get lower and lower as the day progresses. By the end of the day you are dragging and not doing any good work
But if you start at 90% and take a break every hour and a half or so, you can stay above 70% productivity, even in the late afternoon slump time, and get a tremendous amount of work done.
I’ve tried days both ways—one day when I work as hard and as long as I can, but don’t plan out blocks of time for particular projects, and another when I plan my time, including breaks.
I like that second day a lot better:
• When I can focus on one task, I’m more likely to finish it and check it off my list
• Creative ideas come during my breaks and make it easier to get started on new projects
• I don’t get as frustrated by interruptions
• Since I finish tasks, I have a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of the day
The title of this post should really be Take Breaks and Get More Done. We can all make ourselves crazy trying to get everything done at once. But often that means we don’t get anything done at all. Try 90 minutes and then taking a break and let me know how it went in the comments!
[My son has interrupted me about 800 times since I started writing this post. Perhaps the real trick is making sure there’s no one else home while I’m working!]
Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative