As a student, you have all the freedom in the world but no money to do anything with it. When you start working you suddenly have money but no time to spend it in. Then we retire and if we’re lucky we have the money and the time to do whatever we want but now we’re worried about napping and breaking hips. What if we can be more productive now so we can work a little less without our bank account suffering?
It might feel counterintuitive but cutting your working hours will automatically make you more productive. Spending too many hours behind your computer has negative long and short-term effects on your productivity.
The main reason why working shorter hours works is explained in the Parkinson’s Law. It says that the task at hand will fill up the allotted time, regardless of the time needed for the task. This means that you’re better off setting aside 4 hours for a task than 8. You will find ways to spend the 8 hours on it, but you can likely finish it in 4.
Working like a mad person for too long is simply bad for your health and what is bad for your health is bad for your work. You are a lot more prone to make mistakes if you are working too hard. You get tired, you get careless and you overlook things. Close your laptop, relax and send that important email when you’re rested. It will save you from having to explain those embarrassing typos. Act 2 of this episode of This American Life Podcast paints a clear picture of the importance of rest.
In the long haul, a lack of me-time can have more serious health consequences. Burn out, depression and sleep disorders have all been linked to working too hard for too long. Being out of the running for several weeks or even months because of health issues will certainly kill your productivity.
Reducing working hours does call for a big mind shift. In many cultures, including the North American culture, we associate working hard with being a successful human being. Our work is such a significant part of our identity, who are we even if we don’t spend all our time on it? The answer might very well be a happier and more fulfilled person. Let that count for something.
Breaking news: you can’t do it all! Even more importantly: you shouldn’t. Make use of other people’s talents so you can focus on your own. Whether it is asking a colleague to take over one of your tasks or finding someone in the Philippines to take your social media marketing off your hands, proper allocation of tasks can save everyone a lot of time. It often also pays itself back in no time.
Smart tool use
This is the digital age. A large chunk of tasks that used to be labor intensive, can now be done by computers, saving money and time. You might have heard of this beautiful tool called SignRequest. They know that printing, signing and scanning is a monstrous waste of your time so they will let you sign documents online and send documents to be electronically signed. The electronic signature is a life saver. So are the many integrations of Zapier. They will basically link anything you use online to all the other things you use online. Connecting Slack to Gmail, Google Drive to SignRequest and Twitter to WordPress. Check out this list of tools to make your life easier for more inspiration.
Go and get massages, travel, cuddle your kids, cook extravagant meals for friends, go on rollercoaster rides, explore nature, meditate, learn how to dance salsa, learn how to make salsa, brew your own beer and meet your neighbors. There is so much more than just work if you work a little smarter.