In How To Accomplish More By Doing Less at 99U, journalist Tony Schwartz (I wrote about him here back in 2013) describes how the quality of the hours we work is as significant as the number of hours we work. "Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy – physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually – requires refueling it intermittently." As we become physically, mentally, emotionally, and, perhaps, spiritually worn out, our output becomes progressively worse. Planning a workday around rest stops can mean getting as much done, or even more, than if you kept yourself chained to your desk for a longer period of unbroken time.
Schwartz uses a study of pilots and another of violinists to support his argument.
I think it's pretty obvious how this article relates to my goal of finding ways to improve productivity by slowing down. Schwartz is literally talking about working fewer hours without a drop in output. It also relates to a couple of things discussed here in the past. (Besides Tony Schwartz.)
The Unit System
Planning your work time around stops, so you can recharge and sort of trick your mind into thinking it's starting the day over, is what I've been calling the unit system. (Other people, I've learned, refer to it has segmenting.) Whether you break your time into 45-minute units, as I've read about several times, 20-minute units, as in the Pomodoro Technique, or 90-minute units, as Schwartz prefers, you're managing your energy as well as your time. You're making it possible to slow down and still produce.
Minimum Effective Dose
Last week, I wrote about the minimum effective dose and slow work. "In terms of productivity," I said, "the theory goes that you can find a minimum effective dose--or the minimum amount of time/effort--needed to get the work result you want or require."
Schwartz's argument about the law of diminishing returns and using work units to manage your work hours instead of working randomly sounds very much like a minimum effective dose to me.
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