We all want to get a lot of work done. It’s natural. Nobody goes to work and says, meaningful “Today, I don’t want to make any progress at all. I want to get as little work done as possible. I will work, but I’ll try to achieve absolutely nothing.” Okay, maybe there are some really dumb people that are like that. Most of us, however, realize that getting work done and accomplishing stuff feels good and helps us live a more enjoyable and successful life. The never-ending challenge is: do we get meaningful work done? How more Most people simply put in more time. Instead of working for 8 hours they work for 10 hours, or 12 hours, or 14 hours. Does it work? Kind of. But there’s a better, less painful way. One in which you work , but accomplish . Let me explain… less more Why Just Putting In More Hours Is The Wrong Approach If human beings were machines, then putting in more hours would work perfectly fine. A machine produces the same hourly output whether it’s been working for 5 hours or 15 hours. Human beings, however, are NOT machines. Whether we’ve been working for 5 hours or 15 hours on any given day makes a tremendous difference. Why? Because we don’t have endless energy, willpower, concentration, focus, and other ingredients we need in order to produce work. Unlike machines, we experience so-called diminishing returns. The more hours we work, the less productive each consecutive hour generally becomes. The first hour of the day — when energy, willpower, concentration, and focus are high — is usually our most productive. The last hours of the day — when energy, willpower, concentration, and focus are low — are generally the least productive hours. The point is: Each consecutive hour of work on any given day becomes a little bit less productive. Working more and more hours yields diminishing returns. The more hours we work on any given day, the less productive each hour becomes on average. Average productive output per hour diminishes as we work more and more hours while running out of energy, concentration, willpower, etc. Putting in more and more time becomes ineffective after a certain threshold is reached — once your levels of energy, willpower, concentration, and focus are too low you’re just not very productive anymore. Now, you may interject, “So what? Even if I get just a bit of work done in hour #12 of my day it’s certainly better than not getting work done at all!” little any Meh, not really. You see, every hour of work means you’re sacrificing that time for other activities. Silly enough, and this is where it gets interesting, most of us sacrifice productivity-boosting activities such as , napping, meditating, and exercising for putting in more hours of work. sleep Let me repeat: Most of us sacrifice productivity-boosting activities for working more hours. (When I write about productivity-boosting activities I simply mean activities that are scientifically proven to . They increase our work output per hour. For example, instead of producing 10 units per hour these activities help us produce 12 units per hour.) improve our productivity What if, instead of working more hours (while suffering from diminishing returns), we would use that time for productivity-boosting activities instead? By doing that we would switch out some of our least productive hours with activities that increase our productivity per hour. We would and drastically increase our average work output per hour. work less hours, but live richer Here’s a hypothetical example showing how to work less, but get more done: In , the person works twelve hours per day with a work output per hour of between two and ten (in the beginning of the day he’s more productive — work outputs of 8, 10, and 9 in his first three hours –, but at the end of the day he becomes less and less productive — work outputs of 5, 3, and 2 in his last three hours). The total work output during his twelve-hour workday is 74 units. the “hustle” work schedule In , the person only works eight hours per day and uses the other four hours for productivity-boosting activities such as napping, exercising, or meditating. These activities help him achieve a higher work output per hour ranging between eight and thirteen (he’s also more productive in the beginning of the day — work outputs of 10, 13, and 12 in the first three hours of his day –, and less productive in the last hours of the day — work outputs of 10, 8, and 8 in his last three hours). The total work output during his eight-hour workday is 83 units. the “work less, achieve more” work schedule And there you have it. By switching out some of his least productive hours for productivity-boosting activities, this guy was able to work less, but get more work done. He improved his work output from 74 units in the “hustle” work schedule to 83 units in the “work less, achieve more” work schedule. Check out the following illustrations. They’ll hopefully clear things up if my explanation wasn’t sufficient:. Just look at the graphics long enough and you’ll get what I tried to convey… This beautiful illustration portrays how the guy from our example got more done by working less. He simply switched out four of his least productive hours for productivity-boosting activities (e.g. exercise, meditation, or napping). This way he managed to increase the work output of his remaining eight hours of work. His average work output per hour increased dramatically, so that he managed to get more done in eight hours than in the previous twelve hours. The “hustle” schedule. Working twelve hours, but with a relatively low average work output per hour because willpower, energy, concentration, and other resources are running out. The “work less, achieve more” work schedule. Switching out four of the least productive hours for productivity-boosting activities that replenish willpower, energy, concentration etc. Average work output is drastically higher, which leads to an increased total work output. Bottom line: I believe we’re better off increasing our average work output per hour, rather than just putting in more and more hours. I get it. You may be skeptical, “Are there really activities that have such a big impact on my hourly productivity? So that it’s worth doing them over just using that time for work? You bet there are. Let me convince you. Here are 5 productivity-boosting activities to do instead of putting in more hours of work: 1. Work Less, Sleep More Many of us sacrifice sleep for work. And while this may to be working quite well, science says otherwise. Studies show that will make you unproductive, unhappy, cranky, moody, and bad at remembering stuff. Chronic insomnia is even so bad that it will literally SHRINK your brain. seem sleep deprivation Getting stuff done in a sleep deprived state takes you approximately 2–3 times longer than if you had slept enough. Sacrificing sleep for work just doesn’t make sense. found that male basketball players who were instructed to sleep 10 hours a night improved their performances dramatically: three-point and free-throw shooting each increased by an average of nine percent. One interesting study Getting enough sleep will make you a more productive, friendlier, and happier person. Heck, it will even ! help you skip a class or two 2. Work Less, Meditate More Meditation is the #1 to . tool train your mind It’s scientifically proven to increase your ability to focus, concentrate, and pay attention. Plus, it increases your creative potential, your memory, your ability to think outside the box, and even your ability to (which doesn’t make multitasking a good idea, though!). multitask Meditation is shown to literally . For example, brain areas related to focus and paying attention as well as areas related to self-control, positive emotions, and emotional regulation all grow bigger with meditation. increase the size of your brain Cutting down on some unproductive work time and using it to meditate instead is certain to . boost your productivity If you don’t know how to get started, here’s my suggestion: Download the Headspace app Use it to meditate first thing tomorrow morning Use it to meditate first thing in the morning every day thereafter By following these steps you will build the habit of meditating on a daily basis. 3. Work Less, Nap More — Sara Mednick, leading nap researcher “In an ideal world, all humans, including you, would nap.” Want to know one of the secrets of Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Napoleon, John D. Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, and many of today’s elite performers? They all use(d) — and for good reason… napping as a productivity tool shows that napping can enhance performance by 34% and overall alertness by 54%. It also improves subjective sleepiness, performance level, self-confidence, and your ability to multitask. Research found that 60- to 90-minute naps improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep (!). One particularly interesting study Napping is a great way to , concentration, energy, and which are all declining over the course of your work day. It’s like injecting some caffeine in the middle of a marathon. reload your levels of willpower focus 4. Work Less, Exercise More “Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function…exercise has a profound impact on cognitive abilities and mental health.” — John Ratey Sacrificing exercise for working more is one of the dumbest things you could ever do. Why? Because . Just look at some of the it has: exercise is like super fuel for your brain research-backed benefits It strongly improves academic performance, boosts creativity, improves cognitive functioning in areas like planning, attention, concentration, memory, and organization. It also , increases the number of dopamine receptors in your brain, , and literally . protects your brain from aging stimulates the growth of new neurons increases the SIZE of your brain Your brain just works infinitely better if you exercise and move your body throughout the day. And I don’t need to tell you that a better-functioning brain is good for your productivity. 5. Work Less, Take More Breaks “Who needs a freakin’ lunch break?! That time is better spent working. You can eat something at your desk and simultaneously get some work done. That’s killing two birds with one stone! Fuck yeah!” (Really? Relax…) Seriously though, not taking any breaks during work will not help you get more work done. En contraire: Research shows that . taking breaks is highly beneficial for your productivity For example, a in the journal showed that people can maintain their focus or vigilance much longer when their brains are given something else to think about every 20 minutes. study Cognition Neuroscientist supports this idea of super short breaks every 20 minutes: Mark Waldman “Our research has found that taking 2–3 breaks during each hour to consciously relax, stretch, meditate, or do something pleasurable –even for 10 seconds –will reduce stress, enhance your awareness, and significantly boost your concentration and productivity.” And also longer breaks of 15–30 minutes are proven to be beneficial for your performance. Researcher studies elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. He has found the best performers in each of these fields typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last approximately 90 minutes followed by 15 minute breaks. K. Anders Ericsson Other research by time-tracking app found that the most productive people work for 52 minutes, and then take a break for 17 minutes. Desktime Instead of working for 4 hours straight we’re better off just working for maybe 3 hours and using the other hour for . (Breaks that can be used for napping, exercising, meditating, etc.) strategic breaks We Could Go On… There are a bunch of other activities that make you more productive, and that you could do instead of just working more hours. Especially comes to mind. Productivity expert Cal Newport is a huge fan of detailed planning and dedicates a fair amount of time to this practice (time that could be used for working!) as he explains : planning your day on his blog “Sometimes people ask why I bother with such a detailed level of planning. My answer is simple: it generates a massive amount of productivity. A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.” Other things you could do are , taking vacations, going on cool trips, doing yoga, or just generally doing something that’s fun and creates positive emotions. These are all activities that are proven to make you more productive. spending time in nature Alright, Let’s Recap FACT: Most of us aren’t fully satisfied with our current levels of productivity. We would like to get more and more meaningful work done in less time. Today, we looked at two approaches of achieving this goal: The WRONG approach: Just putting in more and more hours. Why doesn’t this work? Because . You don’t have , energy, motivation, or focus. As you’re running out of these your productivity per hour will drop drastically — you’re getting diminishing returns for your time and effort (and your opportunity costs get higher and higher). you’re not a machine endless willpower The RIGHT approach: Swapping out your least productive work hours for productivity-boosting activities such as sleep, napping, exercising, meditating, or taking strategic breaks. These activities are proven to increase your average work output per hour. And because your average productivity per hour is higher, you need to work less. P.S. Want More? Want additional strategies to become more productive? Then download some of my top productivity hacks by clicking the link below: (free PDF) My Top 7 Productivity Hacks to Get More Done Originally published at www.njlifehacks.com .