For how long are we actually productive in a working day? |
For how long are we actually productive in a working day?

For how long are we actually productive in a working day?

30 Apr, 2019

Robert Owen, a leading Welsh activist, advocated the 40-hour work week in the early 19th century. This followed a brutal era that had people working almost 12 hours a day, almost every single day. Owen also coined the famous phrase, ”eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

Shorter attention spans

But, in the current times everyone’s normal attention span has become as good as that of a gold fish. Short! One of the main causes is the surge in usage of smart phones, social media and other such distractions. Add to that the high-stress jobs and roles that end up burning people out. This makes one wonder how long can an average person can actually focus on their work or on doing something productive.

In 2017 alone, RescueTime recorded a staggering 225+ million hours of digital time from hundreds of thousands of their users. The numbers would be quite insane if non-users of the app were also logged.

It is also quite not uncommon to hear people to lament how their days have blended together together into weeks and months, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, it turns into another year. They end up not understanding how that entire year passed them by and what they actually did with their time.

What do office goers spend their time on, then?

According to an American study, over 2,000 full-time office goers confessed that aren’t working for most of the time they’re at work – definitely not the mandatory 8 hours that one is normally “expected” to. Some of the unproductive activities during working hours include:

  • browsing websites – 1 hour
  • social media scrolling – minimum 45 minutes
  • random discussions with co-workers – 30 minutes
  • searching for other work opportunities – 30 minutes
  • smoke breaks – 20 minutes
  • personal calls (non-urgent) – 20-30 minutes
  • messaging/texting – minimum 20 minutes

It’s quite startling that out of the 8 hours of official work, people are being productive for around 3 to 3 and a half hours in all. Yes, you read that right!

This is not entirely a bad thing, though, and is just proving the fact that with changing times, work hours also need to be changed in order to raise productivity together with having more joy while working.

More often than not, we are working for financial gain. This in turn will give us access to material pleasures and a lot of joy. But we end up doing exactly the opposite.

No wonder, the 8-hour workday is becoming an outdated and ineffective approach to work.

What Then Is the Best Solution to Raise Productivity?

Our brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy for about an hour, after which our energy levels dip for about 15 minutes.

For most of us, this flow of energy leaves us wavering between focused periods of highly productive work followed by  periods when we succumb to unwanted distractions.

The best way to overcome this is to get intentional about your workday as a whole. Avoid working for hours at a stretch and then trying to battle through distractions and fatigue. This eventually leads to chronic health issues both mental and physical.

Below are a few tips you can integrate into your worklife in order to raise your efficiency and productivity:

1) Hydrate Every Hour

Being 70% water, our body requires a minimum of 2.6 litres of water in a day, which comes to approximately a glass of 200 ml an hour.

Most working professionals deprive their body of water in the name of working. No doubt they might be extremely busy that it slips their minds.

But the truth is, with lack of hydration, the body will start getting more and more fatigued, leading to unnecessary stress and irritation. The payoff for remaining hydrated is that it leads to greater productivity, creativity and enhanced intuition.

2) Break your day into hourly intervals

 We naturally plan what we need to accomplish by the end of the day, the week, or the month. But we’re far more effective when we focus on what we can accomplish right now.

  • For greater efficiency of your time and attention span, use a planner/diary to dedicate one hour for each task.
  • Follow this with a 15-minute stretch- and-walk

This break is important especially when you are a go-getter and feel you have a lot to accomplish and achieve.

Your body is a machine, that needs to switch off and go on stand-by just like your laptop and television, for optimum performance. You cannot wait for it to get overheated and then take it in for servicing.

3) Turn your brain into a lean, mean machine

 The entire point of taking a break is to rest your body, especially brain. We have an unimaginable amount of message units going into our minds all the time. So, aimlessly scrolling through Facebook and indulging in harmful content and memes and trolls does more damage than you think in the long run.

You can also use these 15 minutes to:

  • Just stand and gaze out of the office window
  • Read a few pages from a book without feeling any guilt about it
  • Grab a fruit or sip on a nice beverage of your choice (preferrably sugar free)

Pro-tip: Do some on the spot deep breathing exercises or a short meditation:

  • This will not just help you calm your nerves but also prevent panic and anxiety attacks.
  • It will also help you respond rather than react in case you have to deal with an unreasonable boss/co-worker, or an unforeseen challenge.
  • This will keep you mentally and physically fit.
  • You can avoid falling prey to insomnia, depression, allergies and other stress-related issues.

4) Draw boundaries for mental and physical peace

 Are you taking work home every single day, working till the wee hours, and working again all of next day? You either have a severe case of time mismanagement or a breach of boundaries. Someone who holds a highly-demanding position might need to be available for longer hours but an effort still needs to be made to not bring work home every single day.  You might receive validation from others and maybe even build that dream project but it comes at the cost of your health.

Boundaries are an act of self-love, and it applies in a work space environment too. When you start planning your day in advance, you enable yourself to finish work at a stipulated time, eventually leaving the rest of the eveing for your personal life which is EQUALLY important.

Unless not urgent, don’t check your email 45 times during dinner or while spending time with your loved ones. Doing this automatically brings down productivity the next day when you are actually supposed to do the work, or breeds anxiety and stress becaus you have been on it for so long and have not been able to accomplish it.

Mantra for managing your time and productivity

 If you are going to wait until you feel tired to take a break, it’s like saying I will wait till I have diabetes before I stop eating sweets. It is going to be too late and you will have missed the window of peak productivity. Keeping to your schedule while being equally flexible about it ensures that you work when you’re the most productive and that you rest during times that would otherwise be unproductive.

Remember, it’s far more healthier and productive to rest for short periods, than it is to keep on working when until you are burned out and cannot make proper progress anymore.


About Ishita Iyer

Ishita Iyer is a trained Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist. She has successfully aided countless individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, illness & post-surgery trauma, relationship & body image issues. She believes in holistic solutions, using a range of tools such as Clinical Hypnotherapy, Transactional Analysis, Reiki, and so on.

She has over 15 years of experience in working with the underprivileged in Zambia. Ishita is also closely involved with numerous projects and camps dedicated to teaching English, general etiquette & physical hygiene to underprivileged children and young women. She also assists the Child Cancer cause, at Tata Memorial Hospital.

Ishita’s desire, passion and persistence are dedicated to serving humanity as a whole, and empowering people to be the best versions of themselves. 

We are proud to have Ishita Iyer on board as a Thriive-verified wellness coach. You can connect with her here: 

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