10 Ways to Be More Productive by Working Less

If you believe the only way to be more productive is to work longer, you are sorely mistaken. A recent study led by John Pencavel at the Stanford Institute shows that there’s a point of diminishing returns to working long hours.

According to the study, after you’ve hit 50 hours of work per week, working longer doesn’t yield any productive results. In fact, the study showed that people who work for 70 hours get the same amount of work done as people who work for 55 hours.

Relaxation and rejuvenation is an important aspect of productivity. If you don’t find time for rest and fun, you’ll degrade your performance. Here are some ways to make some time for non-work-related activities that will help you maintain your productivity.

1. Disconnect from work once you’re out of the office.

You’re fielding calls, emails and attending meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a typical workday. Once you’re out of the office, make an effort to distance yourself from any work-related stimuli. If you’re still replying to emails on your way back from work, then your workday hasn’t ended.

Sometimes, it might not be possible to be completely disconnect yourself from your work responsibilities. Emergencies might require your attention. Even so, make sure you try to avoid answering phone calls or checking your professional inbox once you’re back home.

2. Spread your chores out over the week.

A lot of people don’t get to enjoy their weekends because chores keep piling up. If you’re not free even on weekends, then you aren’t giving yourself the time to relax. Instead, make sure you complete some chores every day, so you’ll have your weekends free.

3. Make time for reflection.

It can be tough to understand where your life is going when you’re constantly inundated by work and social responsibilities. To avoid this, take out some time for yourself every day to try to look at the big picture. Journaling is a good way to get some perspective on your life. Meditation is another tool for letting the clutter of everyday life fade away so you can focus on the important things.

4. Exercise.

As the Stanford study proves, the amount of time you put into work has little bearing on your overall productivity. What matters is how well you spend the time you have. Exercise is a great tool for improving your overall productivity because it makes you more energetic and helps your mental performance.

Several mega-successful people swear by the benefits of exercise; Sir Richard Branson goes for a run every morning. If you don’t currently have time for exercise, make some. It will revitalize you and stimulate your creativity.

5. Work on a hobby.

Doing something you love is one of the best ways to rejuvenate yourself. If you don’t have time on weekdays, make sure you take out some time on the weekends to pursue something you love doing — it could be surfing, tennis or playing the guitar. Pick something you love and find the time to do it.

6. Spend some time with family and friends.

People are social beings. When the pressures of work inhibit your social life, it can take a toll on your performance. You work hard because you want to build a better life for yourself and your family. What’s the point of working if you never get to spend time with people you love?

7. Go on an adventure.

Every few weeks, schedule a trip or an adventure of some kind. Attend a concert, go hiking or take a long road trip with someone you love. When you look back at your life, these are the moments you will remember the most fondly. Make some time to create good memories.

8. Stick to a regular sleep schedule.

“Weekends are for catching up on sleep!” you might say. But are they? Do you spend time working hard so that you can doze off when you finally find some free time? If you’re sleep-deprived come the weekend, chances are your sleep schedule has something to do with it.

Even on weekends, make sure you wake up and go to bed at roughly the same time. Your body doesn’t understand that it’s the weekend. If you constantly change your sleep and wake times, your circadian rhythms are disrupted and you feel tired after waking.

9. Spend some time by yourself each morning.

Mornings are a great time to spend doing something that refreshes you. You might like to go for a walk, play with your dog or read a few pages of a good book. Your mind is at its peak about four hours after you’ve woken up, so use the early mornings for more physical activities and do something mental when your brain is ready.

10. Plan for the week ahead on weekends.

Take some time to make plans for the upcoming week on weekends. You needn’t take much more than 15 to 30 minutes for this activity. When the next week rolls around, you’ll be much more prepared and feel more in control of your life.

Productivity can be tough to achieve if you don’t make time for yourself. If the stress of your job or running your business is getting to you, consider working less, not more. Spend time doing the aforementioned thingsĀ instead, so that you can return to work renewed and ready.

John Chappelear
John is an award-winning author, consultant and speaker, with more than 30 years experience as an executive and entrepreneur. He is recognized internationally as an expert in individual and organizational wellness. His book, The Daily Six, has helped individuals and organizations across the world become more positive and productive. He is the founder of Changing the Focus, LLC which creates and delivers programs that builds positive, powerful, and balanced individuals, and more productive, creative, and profitable organizations.