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Maximizing efficiency throughout your workday

Change your idea of what "productivity" looks like.

To increase your output at work, you have two options: put in more hours or work smarter. Today we will explore what it looks like to “work smarter” and increase productivity.

First, reject any concept you have about what a “productive work day” should look like. As a culture, we’ve been socialized to believe that we must sit at a desk working for 8 hours straight, consistently putting out our best work to be genuinely productive. In reality, this concept of an 8-hour workday came from the Ford factory model, where people were standing in a factory line, repeating the same motions for 8 hours straight, effectively acting like a machine. However, we are people, not machines, and that 8-hour workday doesn’t pass muster when it comes to any task utilizing logic, strength, or creativity.

Researchers at Florida State University have found that elite performers (athletes, chess players, musicians, etc.) who work in intervals of no more than 90 minutes are more productive than those who work over an hour and a half at a time. They also found that top-performing subjects work no more than 4.5 hours daily. (

Why does it make sense to break down our days like this? Because the human body moves in waves of 90-minute intervals. We sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, and throughout the day, we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies tell us to take a break. Still, we often override those signals by stoking ourselves with caffeine, sugar, and our emergency reserves of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

With this information in mind, how does your typical workday measure up?

Three tips for breaking into more productivity.

Follow the two-minute rule - if you’re facing a task or action that takes less than 2 minutes to complete, do it immediately. If you put it off later, it will take up mental space and cost you more time and energy in the long run.

Rethink how you meet - The average worker spends over 31 hours per month in unproductive (and sometimes unnecessary) meetings. Before you add another meeting to your calendar, ask yourself whether you can accomplish the same goals via email, in a spreadsheet, or over the phone.

Office aesthetics matter - Research shows that outfitting a workspace with aesthetically pleasing elements like plants, artwork, or anything else that puts a smile on your face can increase productivity by up to 15 percent!

"Focus on being productive instead of being busy" Tim Ferris.

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