There is a fairly well-known quote stating that “We all have the same 24 hours”, which aims to remind us that there is no time for excuses and that the somebody who got further than you simply used his 24 hours better. It is meant to remind us that excuses won’t take us anywhere closer to where we want to be and that we need to put in the work. However, there are philosophies that counter this ideology. They agree on the fact that physical day has 24 hours and that in order to be healthy and capable of productivity, we need to dedicate some times to sleep and other necessary activities that allow us to be productive. However, they argue that the 24-hours days, or in some cases more precisely, the 8-hours work days are just a consequence of the way we are traditionally taught to think. What does this mean? Are there actually more days in my 24 hours than I thought? Let’s make things clearer and learn how to utilize this way of thinking.
The 8-hour work day myth
A typical work day of an average person in our society has 8 hours. Regardless of whether it is a 9-5 or a 10-6, it has about 8 hours. Have you ever thought about why that is? Let’s consider how our productivity works – I am sure you can relate to this. When you come to your job, you have a certain task. Think about it, could you simply finish that task in the first 3-4 hours with some brakes? The answer is usually something among the lines of: “Yeah I probably could, but I would have to really focus…” What does that mean? Would you rather focus for 3 hours with short brakes and finish your work in half the time, or would you rather spend 8 hours in your office slacking off most of the time? Let’s be honest here, even though you have 8 hours to finish you work, do you actually dedicate all of that time to the task?
Human productivity and focus
Most of you went through some kind of education at some point of your lives. Most of you had class schedules or had to memorize some “information” for a test. If you look at your school schedule, did you have 8 hours straight of classes? In your classes, did you actually spent the whole class focused on the materials? I didn’t. When you asked your tutor for revision advice, what was the first thing he told you? Make a schedule, make sure you have the time to rest. What is usually suggested is 30-40 minutes of focused work with 5-10 minute breaks for 90 minutes – try to take a look at your school schedule. Did you have a longer break after every 2nd or 3rd class? There is a reason why the more experienced teachers and tutors allow the students to have such brakes. The reason is the way our brains work! You can’t sustainably focus on a single task for more than 40 minutes without a brake. And if you do, your efficiency, quality of the work you do and the overall productivity starts decreasing!!
How to handle productivity
So how should we work? What is the best way that allows us to stay focused on our tasks without reducing the amount of work we finish? The answer is fairly simple – spend 40-45 minutes working in a deep focus, take a 10 minute break (go for a walk, close your computer and talk to someone) and make sure you set up your timer so that you can come back exactly after 10 minutes, work for 40-45 minutes in a deep focus mode and then stop and take a longer brake. In order to be fully regenerated, you need to rest for at least an hour or an hour an a half. It is as simple as that! Make the most of your time and stop wasting it, thinking that you’re actually doing something.
The 3 days in 1 philosophy
So what does the 24-hour day have to do with anything? It is not the fact that a single day has 24 hours, it is the fact that we tend to think that in 1 day we can finish only a day’s worth of work. What if you learned to think in a way that every day contains 3 more days? What do I mean by that? It is very simple, in order to be as productive as possible and to use your time wisely without burning out, you mentally split your day into 3 days – which can be a metaphor for 3 working periods of time. For instance, when I’m preparing for my exams, I have 3 or sometimes 4 revision lessons in a day. One in the morning (90 minutes), one in the afternoon (90 minutes) and one in the evening (90 minutes). Sometimes, if I have less stuff to do outside of studying (like business meetings, sports activities etc.) I put in another 90 minutes. This gives me 4.5-6 hours of high quality focused work every day. With a proper plan, in these 4-6 hours, I am able to finish what most people do in 2-3 days. Why is that? Focus, planning and understanding how my body works.
The bottom line is, try to reflect as much as you can and try out different methods. Figure our how your body works and adjust your daily schedule to that. One of the greatest powers a human being can have is understanding himself/herself. There is enough resources out there that can help you in that area, you only need to look. To read further on improving your productivity, check out our 80/20 principle post. To learn about the 10 greatest time wasters, check out our article on this topic.
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