Have you heard of books like The Four Hour Work Week and wondered who could possibly work so little while still making a living? In business, many of us operate under the illusion that the longer we sit at our desks, the more work we will get done. So whether we are actually getting through tasks or just staring blankly at the computer screen, many of us continue plugging away in the sake of productivity.

While we are sure you love nothing more than spending 60+ hours a week at the office, a number of studies have found that this way of working is not helping you get through the to-do list any faster. Why? Because when you work more, you become tired and distracted, which lowers productivity.

So to help you gain clarity and focus – and more quality time away from the desk – we’ve found the top five productivity hacks that are proven to help you do more in less time.


1. Get enough sleep

If you are the type who stays up late trying to get ahead for the next day, it’s time to stop. A lack of sleep is not only detrimental to your overall health – it also has a number of adverse effects on your work habits. When you are tired, you become highly distracted and you also crave stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and fatty foods. These wear off after a short amount of time, leaving you unable to sustain productive work throughout the day.


2. Use your holiday leave

A study by Harvard Business Review found that employees who take their holidays are more productive. Prior to this study, it was believed that taking more holidays lowered stress levels, but this research revealed that less desk time motivates us to make the most of our working hours. So if your holiday is leave is banking up, make it a priority to visit that tropical island you’ve been dreaming of.


3. Take regular breaks

A number of studies have shown that constant work reduces your effectiveness. That’s because the brain is a muscle and it fatigues without regular breaks. To get the most out of your day, take a short break every 50 minutes. Whether you grab a coffee, have a chat with colleagues or go for a short walk, these breaks clear your mind, which helps you to focus and think more creatively.


4. Organise the chaos

There are so many conflicting opinions about whether your desk should be clean or messy. Whichever you prefer, minimise distractions by keeping on top of any clutter. Throw away papers and business cards that are no longer relevant, put empty coffee cups in the bin and clean out your drawers. With fewer unnecessary things around you, you’ll feel in control and less stressed.


5. Work less

Let’s end where we started – long work hours. Unless you are motivated to meet a pressing deadline, you are unlikely to work at your full potential when putting in 60 or more hours a week. A study by John Pencavel of Stanford University found that after you work 50 hours a week, your hourly output starts to drastically decline. Pencavel also discovered that there is little difference in the output between 56 and 70 hours of work, effectively meaning that those extra hours are a waste of time.

Once you start working less, it’s likely that you will get more done in the time spent at your desk. After France famously legislated the 35-hour working week in 2000, many employees reported that their productivity actually increased. With more leisure time at their disposal, they were more motivated to get the work done and get out of the office. Cutting down your work time to less than 38 hours per week may not be realistic, but you can start by committing to leaving the office on time every day, or – at the very least – giving yourself a proper lunch break.

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