How much time can you spend thinking in one day – really thinking deeply? If you’re honest? (Cleaning out your desk / daydreaming in meetings / chatting with colleagues doesn’t count).
It almost seems like a trick question, and you might think it matters what kind of job you have. But it’s not a trick question, because the amount of time is the same for everybody: four hours. After that, your brain just stops, and you best wait until the next day.
So why do we act like we are able to do ten hours of focused work a day? Alex Pang wonders in his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. According to Pang, the only reason we work from nine to five is because, when it comes to work, we still think we live in the time of the industrial revolution.
Embrace your rhythm
In his book, Pang looks at the work of the Swedish Anders Ericson. Ericson studied violists and he’s the originator of the theory that everyone who puts 10.000 hours into something, is an expert. He came to the same conclusion: just like everything else in this world, we have a rhythm. We sleep, eat, wake up, work, get tired, eat, work, get tired, eat, and go to bed. So why do we try to ignore that rhythm?
What if… we would work less
Continuing to work without listening to your body only causes more stress. By working too much, you increase the chance of cardiac diseases, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. And if everyone would work less, there would be more jobs, the economy would produce less, which would mean less pollution (rich countries where people work less often have a smaller carbon footprint).
Stop acting like you’re working on Friday
There are more and more companies who act on this, and who introduce a 4 hour working day or a four day working week. For instance at start-up Treehouse. Founder Ryan Carson abolished the working Friday, so workers didn’t have to pretend they were working the last day of the week.
The most important reason for a company to make a decision like that, is that it’s good for employees. They are happier when they have time to see family, spend time with friends, explore their hobbies. But that’s not the only thing. Happy people work harder and their work has a better quality: happy cows produce more milk.
Pushing people’s boundaries doesn’t just make unhappy employees, it also makes them deliver a poor job. Besides, if you have to do more work in less time, you start working more efficiently.
The conclusion to all this: ask your boss to read this article and talk about working more in less time. Who knows, you might be the start of change.
Want to read more?
Alex Pang – Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
Josh Davis – Two Awesome Hours
Photo: Jeremy Bishop