The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released preliminary results on productivity in the third quarter. It showed that productivity rose at an annualized rate of 9.5% in the most recent quarter.
When you look deeper into the data, you see that productivity increased despite a cut in hours worked. So workers are getting the same amount done in fewer hours.
All of this got us talking about how to increase your personal productivity long-term. So today, we want to share some of our thoughts with you.
If you’re working 40 hours a week now, what would happen if you found a way to work 50?
You would probably produce more. But there’s a problem: the law of diminishing returns.
Let’s say, in 40 hours, you could produce 40 units of whatever you do. It would be natural to think that, if you worked another 10 hours, you could produce another 10 units.
But remember, it’s an average of one unit per hour worked. If you dissected the data further, you might find that you produced:
13 units in the first ten hours
11 units in the next ten
9 units in the third 10 hours
7 units in Hours 31 to 40
So, if the trend persists, you might expect to produce 5 more units if you work an extra 10 hours.
The point is that the longer you work, the lower the return. So how can you find your optimal output?
A half hour at a time
We suggest that you add a half an hour of work at a time. If you’re inclined to do this, rather than just increasing how much you work, try starting 15 minutes earlier and finishing 15 minutes later.
Over the course of the year, by just adding 15 minutes at the beginning and end of your day, you would add 120 hours of productive time.
And that’s assuming you take 4 weeks off a year!
Wouldn’t that be nice? We’re not there yet! But we’re working on it.
The #1 sign that you’re working too much
Let’s go the other way. Let’s say you’re working 80 hours a week right now, like a lot of small business owners we know.
Reverse the advice we gave earlier – start backing down on the hours you work a half hour at a time. See if it makes any difference in how much you produce.
If it doesn’t, you’re working too much!
Test your limits
We suggest you start working a half hour later if you can. A lot of business people have more control over when they start than when they finish. But you might test a number of different ways.
Instead of doing it a half an hour per day, you may stop working a couple of hours early at the end of the week. Play around with it to discover what works best for you.
When we prepare for a show, we could research forever. We could keep tweaking what we write. We have found that we’re most productive when we set a time limit.
Similarly, have you ever noticed that when you know you have to be done working by a certain time, you almost always get everything done anyway?
Making good use of your newfound time
Just because you’re not working doesn’t mean you can’t be productive. Take a clue from Nobel Prize winners and take up a hobby that works for you. You may find creative solutions to problems that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
But don’t think your time has to all be “productive”. It may be that you actually get a good night’s sleep. You might be surprised at how much more you accomplish when you’re well rested.
Getting the same results in less time … sounds like bigg success!
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Thanks so much for sharing some of your time with us today. Now get back to work so you can take off early!
Today, we focused on working longer (or shorter). Please join us next time when we’ll share some thoughts on working harder. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!
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(Image in today's post by vuk011)