More Time Working Does Not Equal More Productivity

You're walking down the street and run into someone you know and haven't seen for a while, and this is usually how the conversation goes:

"Hey! What's up? How are you?"
"OMG, BUSY! I'm so busy. How are you?"
"Yeah, busy."

Why do we do this?

Why do we try to out-busy each other?

Seriously, who wins that particular contest?

Because I will tell you the secret, ugly truth about business:

More time working does not equal more productivity.

There's tons of research around this if you don't believe me. John Pencavel of Stanford University found that your output tanks after 50 hours a week, so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing with those extra hours. {Ouch.}

Even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that working long hours {and weird hours, like shift work} is bad for your health.

In fact, successful people understand that you cannot hustle 24/7 and expect good results. You'll make yourself sick, burn out, start missing things, etc.

A famous {or maybe infamous} example of this was when Moz CEO Rand Fishkin stepped down as CEO and publicly discussed his battles with depression and burnout as a result of the startup culture of busy. He stopped hustling so hard, and is now happier, healthier, and yes, still successful, as a result.

Why we glorify busy

I think the problem is that most of us still believe that time equals money.

Now, when you're working for a paycheck or trading hours for dollars in your business, this is, in some senses, literally true. But most people who work more than 40 hours a week don't get paid for those extra hours.

Either they don't get overtime {working at a salaried job} or, as entrepreneurs, we're doing tasks that don't directly impact our revenue.

Even if you're not trading dollars for hours in your business, the longer you work on a project {say, a blog post for marketing or even designing a new product} the relative value of that project in relation to your revenue goes down. Meaning, the longer you work on something, the less your time is worth.

In our individualistic culture, there's this huge drive right now to make every moment count, and part of it stems from this notion that time is money.

But you have to ask yourself: are you making your moments count for the right things? And what are you actually spending your time doing?

Why too much hustle is actually making you less productive

When we focus on the hustle, the busy, on productivity and seeking more work out of every moment in our day, we actually diminish what we can accomplish.

There's loads of research to back me up, like the study I mentioned above that showed that people who worked 70 hours a week accomplished nothing with the extra time.

There's also research that shows we're mostly actually really bad at multitasking. Every time you switch from one task to another, you lose concentration, and it takes valuable seconds for your brain to "refresh" and get back on task. That means, the more often you switch, the more seconds, minutes, even hours you lose to brain static in your day.

Even though logic seems to dictate that the more we work, the more work we will accomplish, the opposite is actually true. It's a little thing we call the law of diminishing returns.

You've probably experienced this for yourself: If you give yourself three hours to write a blog post, for example, it will take three hours.

But the reverse of that is also true: If you give yourself less time to accomplish a task, you're likely to get it done faster.

Maximize your output, not your time expended

The key, then, to getting off the busy-mobile is to train yourself to focus and do the things that are actually proven to help you be more productive and accomplish more.

Do less, better. This is a principle of Essentialism that I try to live by. It means choosing only the most important tasks and then focusing on them completely. This can be super hard in our multi-tab, apps and alerts culture, but it's vital if you want to quit being so busy.

Focus, rest, repeat. Since you're committed to doing less, better, you need to really focus on each task. But focus takes a lot of energy, so you'll need schedule regular breaks to make sure that you stay focused. This is called the Pomodoro technique, and it can really help you structure your work time to ensure you're making the most of it.

Disconnect. Especially for entrepreneurs and those of us that work from home, it's tempting and easy to be "working" all hours of the day and night. No need to commute! You can answer email from bed, from the yard, from the bathroom! {Ew.} But when you're "always" working, you're not very focused. Disconnecting will improve your focus and productivity when you're actually supposed to be "on."

Recharge. Whatever that means to you, rest is important. It might mean prioritizing sleep at night, or getting your cardio on. It might mean your morning meditation sesh or weekly yoga class. Or it might mean actually taking a vacation sometimes {remember those?}. Without regular rest, you're headed straight for burnout.

Redefine success. As you may have noticed, there's no prize for being the most busy. Stop thinking about busyness as a measure of your success {or importance!}. Instead, really think about what a successful life would mean for you. More time with family? More time for your passions? More time to give back? Focus on those metrics to feel more fulfilled.

When you change the rules of the game, anything becomes possible. I know entrepreneurs who work only three or four hours a day, or only three days a week, and are still wildly successful by anyone's standard.

That's because being "busy" is never a direct correlation to being successful. Instead, focusing on the right tasks, giving them your full attention, and then taking meaningful breaks to recharge in between is the road to not just more success, but more satisfaction.