Some good news for anyone sick of 12-hour days at the office: the key to maximizing professional productivity may not be to work more, but rather to work less. According to a recent study conducted by the Draugiem Group, a social networking company, the average person remains productive for 52 minutes at a time. Using its productivity tracking app, DeskTime, the Draugiem Group analyzed users’ time and tasks and found that the most productive 10 percent were those who worked for 52-minute intervals followed by 17-minute breaks, over the course of a workday that often lasted fewer than eight hours.
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The experiment also found that when this 10 percent pool of people took their breaks, they took a certain type of break: one that removed them from the work environment mentally and/or physically (e.g., leaving the office to exercise as opposed to surfing Facebook for 17 minutes). Why? In essence, space is love. Rather than breaking up a long work day with constant three-minute scans of your Facebook Newsfeed, it is more effective to completely switch gears for a slightly longer period of time so that your brain can actually recharge and then tackle the next task with fresh energy reserves.
While long or unexpectedly extended hours are of course inherent to certain roles — a doctor or reporter, for example — if your job does allows for some flexibility, it may be worth evaluating how you structure and manage your time. After all, anything with a prescription for less work based on practical findings is worth some proactive research of your own!
To increase your productivity while minimizing the amount of time you spend working, try setting calendar reminder alerts allotting regular breaks throughout the workday. If the 52-/17-minute interval format feels is too rigid, try adapting a version of the Draugiem study’s approach that works for you, and assess the results.
If the results are good, do your co-workers (and yourself) a favor, and consider bringing your findings to your boss or supervisor. Not only will you decrease the likelihood of raised eyebrows over your seemingly recent uptick in soy latte runs, a formal sanctioning of your revolutionary new approach to productive time management from a higher-up will also score you major points among your colleagues.
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