How To Work For Eight Hours Straight Without Hating Yourself

how to work for eight hours straight without hating yourselfI’ve written before that becoming more productive sometimes means taking more breaks. Unfortunately, real productivity-zealots can’t seem to wrap their minds around this.

“Wait… if I’m doing less, how can I do more?”

I can just see the smoke coming out of their ears as their mind tries to process this contradicting statement. So, to alleviate some of those uber-productive types from developing a nasty twitch, here’s a tip for those who want to take breaks… without taking breaks. (Are you confused yet? Read on for more clarity.)

What’s the best way to ensure you don’t burn out of your job/project/activity? Take more breaks. What’s the best way to make more time for getting stuff done? Take LESS breaks. Looks like in order to do more without burning out we have to …yep, it’s still confusing.

The only way to satisfy both of these statements is to take breaks that still involve work. For example: I plug away from 48 minutes at my computer, and I take a 12 minute break. But during this break I’ll do things like fold laundry, load the dishwasher, vacuum, run errands… anything that is done anywhere but at my computer. Not only that, but every 5 minutes I take a 30 second break away from my computer. I do a small task that also gets me up and moving, away from my computer.

Now, this break schedule may sound like it’s still work and could easily burn someone out, but it’s really not. Although you’re doing “work” during your breaks, it’s still a different kind of work. The best kind of tasks for these 12 minute breaks are manual labor, that don’t require much thinking. This allows for your mind to take a load off, which is by far the most important aspect of the break.

In order to ensure that every second is being used, it requires a little bit of foresight. It helps to plan many 12-minute tasks before your day begins, so you’ve got a queue available of things to do during the break. It really doesn’t take long, and you’ll think of plenty more as the day progresses.

The beauty of this system is that while on paper it looks like an 8-hour day filled with working and no breaks. But really, it doesn’t feel like one. Simply shifting gears between different types of work is more refreshing than you’d think. And you’ll get a whole heckuva lot more done throughout the day.

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • ashley June 17, 2007, 8:04 am

    great post and nice headline to read after a two weeks at new job, working an average of ten hours a day. thanks!

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  • Sleeping Dude July 3, 2007, 11:37 am

    I like your approach. The more you distract yourself during the break from what you were doing before the break – the more effective rest for you mind you will get.

    If you keep sitting at your computer and just run the browser to read news stories – it’s 20%-effective break.

    If you turned away from computer to talk to your friend but keep sitting at your desk – it’s 40% break.

    If you stand up to go and make a cup of coffee that would be 60% effective break.

    To get 100% effective break – go out, take a breath of fresh air, stretch your limbs, don’t think about work. Only then your break will really count.

    Reply
  • Jul September 7, 2007, 3:08 am

    I totally do this (well, without the timer). Getting up from the computer regularly makes me feel much less bogged down. Plus, it’s nice to get little things (running the dishwasher, dusting, etc.) out of the way without having to lump them into one big, onerous cleaning block of time.

    Reply