We've got it all wrong, folks!
The research shows that there is NO correlation between the hours you put in and how much effective output you create. In fact, the opposite is often true.
Because we get fatigued, we achieve 'cognitive backlog' (meaning your head's full). And so we start turning in half-baked stuff, with careless sloppy errors and oversights.
Because we are humans and our brains cannot simply be switched on to full turbo-thrusting Power Thinking mode and sustain it for 8 hours a day (or more, especially our friends in South Korea and Japan). We get fried.
And I've seen it often walking through clients' offices ...
Brain-dead Zombies sitting at their computers, pretending to be productive long into the night, until they see their boss leave.
What's the solution?
Intermittent Fasting seems to be all the rage these days (the 5:2 Diet in particular seems popular with many). So might Intermittent Thinking be the way forward?
Well, there's good science for why we should do it ...
Ever wonder why TED talks are only 20 minutes long?
Ever wonder why the Finnish school system (regarded the best in the world by many educators) gives kids a 15-minute break after each 45-minute lesson?
Ever wonder why the world's most successful and prolific creative artists work far less than 8 hours per day?
We need to refresh, change 'Brain Shape' (the chemical settings involved in our attention, engagement, learning, etc), then go back to it again. Intermittently.
For those of you who follow cricket, you'll know that Steve Smith, the great Australian batsman, scored two centuries (scores of over 100 runs) in the match against England this week. A huge feat.
It is estimated that he is only fully switched on to concentration mode for around 7 minutes in the period required to reach a typical century. Because concentration is a rare commodity. The rest of the time he's unfocussed, fidgeting, deliberately distracting himself.
That way, he's absolutely focussed when he needs to be: when the bowler starts his run in to deliver the next ball.
Seems counter-intuitive, but he's got the runs on the board, literally.
How might you apply this knowledge to your day's work for better performance and output?
Understand your own brain power and neuro-biology for a start. For most people on average biorhythm you have two peak cognitive periods in the day. 10am - 12 noon, then 3 - 5pm. Assign these windows for your serious thinking and more creative tasks.
Within that 2-hour window, you can consider using the Pomodoro Technique. This methodology assigns 25 minutes to each task before you take a short break (step away from your desk, walk around, grab a coffee, play social media, etc for about 5 mins). Anything to change your Brain Shape. Fill this slot with 4 x Pomodoros before you take a 'serious' break.
So your new workday might be a 2:5. Two hours of full-on focus, and five hours of other stuff with its usual meetings, interruptions and distractions. Later you might want to step it up to 4:3.
Sound like something you might want to try?
There's a cool app which can help you stay on task when you should, and stepping away from it when you need to.
And if you want to deep-dive more into this, why not read Two Awesome Hours. I haven't read this book yet, but from the blurb I understand Josh Davis, PhD, is saying the same thing as I am although he's not altogether clear on why he chose 2 hours (to me it should be to take advantage of our biological biorhythm).
Good luck in fitting this to your work life for a more efficient and effective you.
Please let me know how it works for you, or if you're currently utilising Pomodoro or other techniques which work well for you and we could share with our community.
At least, take a break, and think about it.
Question everything! Cheers, Stu
About the Author
International Trainer, Speaker, Coach and Consultant
Stu is a professional storyteller for 30 years. He was a creative director in Ad agencies, author of 7 books, journalist, travel writer/blogger, specialist military history tour guide, TEDx MC/Speaker coach, trainer for Fortune 500s and entrepreneur.