The key to success isn’t always spending countless hours slaving away at a particular task until you see improvement. In fact, the most successful people often spend less time completing a specific job than their less successful counterparts. This technique not only helps get things done; it also helps save time.
A study in Psychological Review led by Dr. Anders K. Ericsson found that the best way to be productive is to work intensely for short periods rather than working steadily for a long time. He looked at violinists and found that the most experienced musicians worked as hard as they could during short periods of time before giving themselves breaks. With such a strategy, some violinists could accomplish in four hours what others took seven hours to complete.
It’s easy to see this effect in everyday life as well. A short project can easily drag out into several hours with the help of distractions and other things that divide your attention. Working hard through short bursts of time is a technique that has been championed by many successful people.
One technique you can try if you want to be more productive is called the Pomodoro Method, which divides each hour into a 45-segment of work followed by a 15-minute break. For the 45-minute period, you must work relentlessly, making you are free from interruptions or distractions. Set a timer to know when your work period is over and take a short 15-minute break to relax and refresh your mind. Once your break is over, you can work intensely once again and get as much done as possible.
Giving yourself a time limit forces you to buckle down and concentrate. When your work is spread too far between different hours, it’s easy to loaf off or get distracted because you know that you have extra time to kill. By limiting your time, you will have an easier time focusing on what needs to get done.
Lastly, overworking yourself leads to burnout. Give yourself a break from time to time. Working too long will lead to diminishing returns. As the day goes on and you get tired, you won’t be able to put in as much effort. In fact, you might even get negative returns as you realize how many mistakes you’re making.
That doesn’t mean you should slack off. Instead, it means you should use your time wisely to get the most done in the least amount of time. That way, you have more time for yourself to do what makes you happy.