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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.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Smart Ways to Be More Productive What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It 10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day 7 Things to Do in a Gossipy Work Environment 15 Signs Of Negative People

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019

8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

Everyone has the ability to learn a life-changing skill not just this year, but in the next 6 months.

By life-changing, I mean something that can have a positive impact in your life moving forward, even if it’s something you can’t envision today. Certain skills we can immediately reap the benefits of, while others will be life-changing when we least expect it.

In this article, we’ll share 8 life-changing skills you can learn in 6 months, where you can learn them, and how you can get started today.

1. Speed reading

Bill Gates has been known to state that if he had one superpower, it would be the ability to read faster. What Bill and the rest of the mega-successful understand is that knowledge is power. The ability to process information faster from books, articles, and reports is what will help us learn faster, and therefore improve each aspect of our life faster as well.

Where you can start learning: Speed reading courses are becoming more popular, as more people realize how important it is with the limited time we have. You can check out free courses like Read Speeder or you can start learning how to use Spritzlet, which allows you to speed read articles online with a browser extension.

2. Public speaking

Research shows that people fear public speaking more than death itself. There’s something terrifying about being in front of dozens or hundreds of people, and exposing yourself completely. It’s when you’re most vulnerable, but learning how to public speak is a life-changer.

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Warren Buffett has given advice to recent graduates that the number one skill you can have to succeed is public speaking skills. Everything from communication, confidence, and sales is developed when you develop your public speaking skills.

Where you can start learning: Luckily, there are great communities out there like Toastmasters that organize local meetups all around the world. You’ll find amazing public speakers that are looking to get to the next level to beginners that are just getting started. Check out Toastmasters’ website here.

3. Spanish

As the third most spoken language in the world, the ability to speak Spanish will allow you to reach over 500M people around the world. No matter where you live, knowing how to speak Spanish is becoming increasingly more important, with the Hispanic population and economy spreading quickly worldwide. If you’re living in the US, this is even more important, with over 30% of the population being Hispanic.

Spanish is also on this list, because it’s one of the easiest languages to learn. Sure, Mandarin is an important language to learn, but it’s an incredibly difficult one to learn. If we were to measure the level of importance and the time to learn for all the languages available, Spanish would make it to the top of the list.

One of the biggest reasons why people never reach fluency in any foreign language is: using the wrong method, and lack of time.

It turns out that humans retain only 5% of what we learn from lectures, 20% of what we learn from apps (visual cues), and 90% of what we learn from immediate immersion. Yet, how do 90% of learn a new foreign language? Language schools (lectures), books, Duolingo (apps), etc that don’t provide the real-life immersion required for our brains to learn faster.

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Where to get started: If you want the most effective way to learn a language, learning from real-life interactions is the best way to do it. There are great websites like Rype, which offers Spanish coaching for busy people, solving the issue of lack of time and bringing real-life immersion to your screen. With Rype, you can book as many lessons as you want, at any time of the day, any day of the week, allowing you to fit it into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.

4. Accounting

If you’re looking to get into business, accounting is one of the core fundamentals you’ll need to succeed. While you don’t need to be an expert, you definitely should understand the basics.

This skill can also be used to manage your personal finances, to meet your financial goals, and having more control over your life.

Where to get started learning: If you didn’t learn accounting in school, no worries. You can either teach yourself using books, or check out free accounting courses online.

5. Microsoft Excel

Most people reading this probably have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. While this is a good start, there are so many powerful functionalities that are hidden, which could make your life a lot easier.

Excel is also a great asset to have whenever you’re looking for a job, as many corporations rely on Excel to organize and manage multiple parts of the business.

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Where to get started learning: With the popularity of Excel, you can find tons of free resources and videos online to learn. Check out Excel Exposure, Lynda, and Excel with Business.

6. Blogging/Vlogging

Blogging is a powerful tool if you want to spread your ideas, build your brand, or grow your business. Since it was introduced, blogging has taken on a life of its own, and today there are ~2M blog posts being written on a daily basis.

Where to get started learning: Anyone can start blogging today. All you need is a content-management system like WordPress, which is completely free. Personally, I think the best way to start learning how to blog is to just start writing. There are techniques you can learn on how to promote your blog, but the best way to grow your blog is to write great content.

7. Weight training

Yes, weight training is a skill. It’s not as advanced as learning how to code, nor will it take as long as learning a new language, if you just want to learn the basics.

We’re not promising that you’ll get a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you will see much faster results for whatever goal you have, just by understanding how to workout properly. And of course, when you’re dealing with an activity that involves physical strain, you’ll always want to caution yourself.

Where to get started learning: There are amazing body builders that are sharing all of their secrets for free on Youtube. You can check out Bodybuilding.com’s Youtube channel to get started.

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8. Photo and video editing

In the digital world that we live in, from Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook, there is no avoiding photos and videos. In fact, social media has increasingly gone away from text sharing and almost everything to photo and video editing.

Where to get started learning: For photo editing, you can use Photoshop. For video editing, you can use iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Keep in mind, there are dozens of editing software tools for video and photo editing, but what’s more important are your editing skills, not the tool itself.

Check out education websites like CreativeLIVE or Skillshare, where you can learn from experts themselves on how to best use design and software tools.

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