Before you glare (again) at that one coworker who always seems to have their stuff together and are never frazzled at work, take a moment to think about how they can benefit you. Specifically, think about stealing their secrets to being more productive.
Julia Gifford writes about stealing those secrets in The Muse. What Gifford describes isn’t really “stealing” in the sense that you’re taking something of value from someone else and using it for yourself. What you’re really doing is adopting productive behavior you’ve observed and applying it to your own situation. It’s a “win-win” for everybody.
So how do we get our hands on our coworker’s secrets to success? By using the time-tracking and productivity app DeskTime, Gifford’s group has been able to study these magnificent employees and what their workflow looks like. This app can analyze where you’re wasting time, if you’re late, and ways to track billing for clients. What they found using this was that their most productive workers had something in common: they take effective breaks. Specifically, the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it.
In fact, Gifford writes, the employees with the highest productivity ratings don’t even work eight-hour days. The secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a workday, it appears, is not working longer—but working smarter with frequent breaks.
Most employees treat work like it’s a marathon. That leads to periods of exhaustion, fatigue, and even giving up. Gifford found that the most productive employees approach their jobs as a series of sprints. They make the most of those 52 minutes at an all out run, then slow down to catch their breath so they can get ready for their next sprint. And no, their break doesn’t consist of sitting back and sorting through stacks of paperwork or keeping an eye on incoming email. They take this time to peruse their favorite social media or look at some funny videos of cats playing the piano. They actually break physically and mentally from work and allow themselves to recharge.
Gifford also found that by truly breaking from work tasks (not just slowing down as many do on their “breaks”) these productive employees were fully engaged during their work time and not distracted by social media or other non-work related activities.
Gifford also cites other physiological research that supports this sprinter’s method of approaching work:
…working for long periods of time can be detrimental to your level of engagement with a certain task. Repeating tasks leads to cognitive boredom, which in turn halts your ability to thrive at whatever you’re doing. The human brain just wasn’t built to focus for eight hours at a time — the best way to refresh attention span is to take a break.
In addition, the human body has never been made to sit for eight hours straight, and research has shown that breaking up the all-day sit-a-thon can improve productivity. (Oh, it also makes you way healthier.)
Repetitive tasks and sitting hunched over your computer all day is proven to be actually awful for not only your productivity, but your health as well. So get up, stretch out, grab a snack. Chat up some coworkers (so long as you’re not interrupting their sprint.) It’s impossible to be 100% productive, but using this strategy will get you on the right track to increased efficiency.
Looking for more ways to become more productive? Reach out to our business process consulting experts!