You want to be more productive. Who doesn’t, right?
We’ve all heard suggestions for packing more work into the idle moments of our day and shrinking tasks by reducing the time we make available to them. If you have too much work, you’ll just have to work more to get it done. But maybe that’s actually the opposite of what we should be doing. The goal isn’t really to do more; it’s to accomplish more. We need to accomplish more of the things that are most important and do high quality work.
One counterintuitive way to increase your productivity is to work fewer hours per day. Even back in the early 1900s, studies had shown that working 10 hours a day did not result in any more production output than eight.
That’s why Henry Ford decided to scale back the work week for his employees, while still paying them the same amount. First he cut back from 10-hour to 8-hour shifts. Then, he trimmed the work week from six days to five.
“Now we know from our experience in changing from six to five days and back again that we can get at least as great production in five days as we can in six… Just as the eight hour day opened our way to prosperity, so the five day week will open our way to a still greater prosperity.” — Henry Ford
Experiments in his own factories demonstrated that workers accomplished no more in 60 hours a week than in 40. It didn’t make sense to keep them there more hours if it didn’t result in more production, so he didn’t.
This was a radical move, and it still would be today. Many workplaces encourage and reward longer hours when they should be rewarding accomplishments. If factory workers get tired and experience degradation of performance over the course of a long day, how much more do people who do mental work?
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