How long can you work with maximum productivity?

How long can you work with maximum productivity?

Work more, get up earlier, go to bed later— according to many people this is a perfect way to achieve maximum productivity. The more you work, the more you manage to do. The more effort you put into something, the closer your target is. Is it true?

For some reason many people believe that increasing the number of working hours will bring the proportionate increase in their productivity. However, it is completely false in reality.

Unfortunately, in the last years extending a working day stopped being a necessity and became something completely normal. The results of research conducted by Ernst & Young demonstrate that 46% of managers in the world work over 40 hours per week, and as far as 24% work even more than 50 hours. There are many potential causes for that; starting from the company culture and politics, through the pressure from our superiors, up to independent decisions to work overtime in order to show one’s commitment and meet expectations of the employer.

However, there is a certain line, which after being crossed with additional working hours, stops raising one’s quality and productivity. Simultaneously, it leads to the development of depression and chronic exhaustion, as well as negatively affects achieved results.

“Inborn desire of the improvement in the standard of living makes workers to be extremely prone to overwork and within a few years to devastate their health and the organism” — Adam Smith, 1776, Wealth of Nations, Book I, chapter VIII

We must accept this inconvenient truth. Dubious benefits from working overtime aren’t worth their price. Even the prospect of getting promoted or fortifying one’s position in the company isn’t able to compensate adverse effects of being overworked.

It is also necessary to add that tiredness caused by overwork increases the amount of mistakes. Additional time needed to correct them often shows that the decision to prolong working hours is not beneficial.

Although the time we have every day is limited, the common aspiration to achieve the best results forces us to find a way to work longer. It is simple, we begin to use hours from the time intended for rest. Many employees exchange valuable hours of sleeping for additional hours spent at their desks.

Unfortunately, it’s completely pointless. We must rest and regenerate regularly in order to keep our concentration and creativity on a certain level. The easiest and most effective way of “charging the battery” is sleeping. Paradoxically, this is often the first thing which we give up to work even more.

Decreased time for rest won’t increase your productivity. What’s more, it is highly likely that it will negatively affect results of your work. The constant overwork and insufficient amount of time to rest make keeping motivation and coping with new challenges unusually difficult.

Everyone must occasionally work overtime. A few additional working hours can indeed help us to achieve better results but only in a short perspective. After that every single day of working too much brings us closer to the point of burnout.

Numerous studies on relations between the number of hours spent at the work and level of productivity show that we achieve the highest productivity working 40 hours every week. 40 is not an accidental number. Such length of a working week comes from conclusion gathered over centuries.

Working overtime regularly prevents us from achieving the best productivity — if we work more than 8 hours per day, our productivity starts falling drastically. After 9 working hours, every consecutive hour of effort brings zero benefits. We only waste time, thus work turns in pointless procrastination.

However, in practice even 8 hours per day is too much if we want to work with the highest efficiency. We aren’t able to hold of full concentrating for so long. Everything starts to distract us — talkative friends from work, social networking sites, even the weather behind the window. The research associated with time management shows that every day 69% of employees spend from 30 up to 60 minutes on doing everything but working.

This is a human nature — we want to be everywhere and do a lot of things simultaneously. We get easily distracted and then in the long term we try to regain concentration. However, we are not always able to cut off distractions around us. Even if we find a quiet place, close the door, turn all notifications off, we will fail to force our mind to give up all distracting ideas and chaotic thoughts.

Based on theory and practice it is possible to state that we aren’t able to work with full productivity more than 7 hours per day. What’s more, some studies suggest that optimum upper limit for the white-collar work of all kinds is 35 hours per week. Nevertheless, we should aim rather at working 8 hour a day and 40 hours a week.

To sum up, you should make plans for your working day so that it doesn’t last longer than 8 hours. Every consecutive hour is a waste of time which gives deceptive sense of productivity and brings no real results. An appropriate amount of sleep is the undervalued element of a productive working day. Don’t give up sleeping for work as such actions will only harm you. Every day you are able to work with full productivity for 7 hours. Try to use this time wisely.

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3 years ago

I have a question whether you have any success in what you write in the article and what are the results