Ah, December. The snow is gently falling, holiday classics pour from the radio and advertisements everywhere invite you to cuddle up under a blanket and get cozy.
Too bad December is also one of the busiest months of the year for students and faculty.
When you feel like you’re drowning in an endless sea of deadlines and exams, it is easy to believe that the only answer is endless hours of work. Frustration over procrastination and an inability to stay focused for hours at a time is also common.
We’re going to go with something a little counter-intuitive here:
Sometimes, when you can’t make yourself focus, the answer might not be to get angry with yourself and put more energy into trying to focus. You may just need to listen to what your brain is trying to tell you and give yourself some time off.
This week in the Nimbus Blog we’re looking at how working less may actually allow you to do more, especially when we’re looking at a month-long marathon like finals season.
Just like when we are at the gym and our muscles start shaking after too many reps, our brains get tired after too much time at our desks focusing on work. Physically, however, we may feel fine since we’re really just sitting around. It’s easy to think that we’re just not disciplined enough and force ourselves through another few hours of work where we get little to nothing done.
A 2018 review of studies that looked at the use of breaks in office environments found that taking breaks did not have any detrimental effects on work productivity. Even though subjects were working fewer hours due to frequent breaks, they were able to put out the same amount of work. The review also found that taking “active breaks”, where the subjects stood up, changed posture, and just generally moved around, decreased pain – important when so many of us are experiencing neck and eye strain from staring at our computers for too long.
”Even though subjects were working fewer hours due to frequent breaks, they were able to put out the same amount of work.
Longer breaks are also important around a work day. Steve Glaveski, CEO and co-founder of Collective Campus, put this one into practice and restricted his employees to a 6-hour work day. Glaveski believes that by restricting the amount of time his team is allowed to work, they will zero in on what is really important and then will have the mental and physical reserves to get it done.
Glaveski’s not the first to believe that working fewer hours will lead to the same amount of productivity over the long run. In August of 2019, Microsoft Japan experimented with cutting their workweek to 4 days, closing the office on Fridays. They actually found that their productivity increased by 40 per cent over August 2018.
Still don’t think you can get it done in a shorter period of time? Check out Parkinson’s law theory, that says work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
When we’re working or studying for ourselves, it is incredibly difficult to walk away from our desk or cut down on how much we work – especially since much of society glorifies working long hours. That age-old wisdom might mean well, but for much of our work and school life it might not be entirely accurate.
If you’ve found that you are spending 10-12 hours a day at your computer and end the day with little done, it may be time to try something radical and cut down on how much you’re working. The results may be surprising.