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No One Will Tell You How Much Time You Should Work Every Day, So I Will

No One Will Tell You How Much Time You Should Work Every Day, So I Will

Here is a well researched fact of life. The more you work, the less productive you become! The secret is to work smarter and take lots of breaks.

Let us look at the research to see if this is really true. A social networking company tested their new app called Desk Time. Guess what? The top 10% most productive people were not even working 8 hour days. Their recipe for success? They took regular breaks of 17 minutes for every 52 minutes of work.

A University of Toronto study showed very similar results. The leader of the study, John Trougakos says:

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 “All efforts to control behavior, to perform and to focus draw on that pool of psychological energy. Once that energy source is depleted, we become less effective at everything that we do.”

Our brains are not designed for long, intense hours of focus. Work intensively for short bursts, then rest up.

But the 52 minute work and 17 minute break may not work for you. The secret is of course to take the breaks when you feel that you need them. Interrupting concentration by following a clock may ruin a train of thought. If I am on a roll and producing really good work, I want to continue so a break could be counterproductive.

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It might not work if you are dealing with restless customers who are waiting in line to be served. This principle may work better for mindless and repetitive tasks which do not require a high level of focus. But certainly it is worth experimenting with this and see how you can actually reduce the number of working hours and work smarter. Here are 7 practical suggestions so that you can do just that.

1. Don’t let presenteeism take over your life.

We have all heard of absenteeism but what about presenteeism? You have finished all the day’s tasks, yet you feel compelled to stay at your desk. You end up working longer hours than you really need. If you have the freedom to choose, just go home. There are lots of things waiting for you there. You can relax and spend time with the family or significant other. When you come back to work the next day, you are much more likely to get more creative and faster work done. Your body and brain need recharging.

2. Try working shorter hours with lots of breaks.

It may be time to experiment. Larry Page of Google wants to abolish the 40 hour working week . The Swedish government introduced a six hour working day as an experiment in the city of Gothenburg last April. The test group will work six hour days while the control group will work the standard 8 hours. Both groups will be paid the same. Will it reduce absenteeism and increase productivity? We are still waiting on the results as they are leaving it run for a year.

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3. Learn how to say no.

Stop giving away your time when you find that you are overwhelmed. The range of requests for help, collaboration, invitations and meetings seem never ending and if you find that your real work is lagging behind, then it is time to call a halt. The best advice I have found on this one is to take time before answering. You are more likely to say no and it will save you tons of time and energy when you say yes and have to backtrack later! Remember that ‘no’ is a complete sentence!

4. Breaks are more productive than you think.

If you think that your mind switches off entirely as you walk around the block or grab a coffee, then you are wrong. It is in these relaxing moments that the mind can produce some very creative ideas. It is not a waste of time. Albert Einstein, when asked how he came up with idea of relativity, said:

“I thought of that while riding my bike.” – Albert Einstein

5. Set yourself realistic deadlines.

There are lots of studies which show that people generally work better when there are time restrictions. In fact, pressure to complete tasks within a deadline can yield fruitful results, if the person sees it as a challenge. If, on the other hand, they see it as a threat, it may well be counterproductive having a tough deadline to meet. You have to decide how you react to deadlines and set them accordingly.

 6. Don’t overdo the breaks.

You have to find the right balance because having too many breaks can be an ally in procrastination. I cannot do that now as I have to have a break! If this is taken to its logical conclusion, then very little work will get done.

7. Don’t forget your body.

Switching off for a break might involve a nap, a walk or checking your Facebook status. Google was one of the first major companies to introduce nap rooms to help employees recharge mind and body. If you are not lucky enough to work in one of these companies, you may have to content yourself with taking a walk, stretching or doing something else to give your wrists, arms and fingers a rest. You can avoid the rather painful RSI (repetitive strain injury) by using software such as Workrave which will alert you with an alarm to tell you when to get up and move around.

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Let us know in the comments if you have successfully managed to work a shorter week and how you achieved that.

Featured photo credit: New books from AdLibris/Peter Hellberg via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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