In the United States, the concept of productivity has very specific parameters.
The ideal image of a productive person tends to lean toward one who expends a high level of effort or spends a significant amount of time at work. Individuals who don’t do this are typically viewed as time wasters or labeled procrastinators.
It’s a significant thing, then, that current studies are discovering this mindset is mistaken. It turns out the only things constant work provides people are overwork and fatigue.
According to a 2015 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of 1,003 U.S. adult workers feel overworked more often than not.
This particular group of employees expressed a feeling of being overwhelmed by their jobs with little to no time available to reflect on their work.
What does this mean for our deeply rooted work habits and culture? Ensuring maximum productivity requires working smarter, rather than working harder or longer.
Things like proper time management are more important to personal and professional productivity than time spent working, but the effort only pays off when used wisely, not broadly. Also, overtime should be a rare occurrence, not a regular one.
Below are four instances where doing less work on the job actually ensures greater productivity:
1. Fast Deadline
You may ask yourself how it’s possible to benefit from less work when you have a fast approaching deadline, but this compacts the amount of work you can do.
There’s a business truism called Parkinson’s Law that states “work will fill the time available for its completion.” This essentially means that if you give yourself an extended amount of time to complete something, the longer you will take to produce results. Although some projects require an elongated process, most situations do not have such limitations.
Giving yourself a short deadline or minimal working hours forces sharper, faster thinking and less wasted time. In fact, massive projects can benefit from this method as well.
Instead of pulling several all-nighters on a large project or upcoming exam, break your time up into small blocks and assign concrete goals for each time period. This creates a system of small achievements that, when accumulated, will result in a completed and cohesive product.
2. Limited Work Space
While this particular situation does not pertain to every event, the availability of space can come up in a variety of instances. Whether you are a college student in a dorm room, a businessperson hosting a company event, living on a tight budget, an entrepreneur preparing an important meeting, or an artist looking to display a new collection, your time remains valuable.
Try to limit your spatial options to your current needs or immediate future requirements. Having an abundance of real estate can be positive, but it can also result in neglect, clutter and a waste of money.
By dedicating less time to the work done in such a location or workspace, you ensure productive effort whenever you actually utilize said space. It’s a combination of negative reinforcement and psychological motivation.
You do not necessarily want to be in a confined space for hours on end, but you have it for a reason. So, use the space only as needed and watch as your productivity rate soars, allowing for a better change of scenery in the future.
3. Limited Funding
In life and in business, there are few things more vital than money. Proper funding provides equipment, household items, work staffing, access to current technology and necessary sustenance. Funding offers options, and in life, options are valuable.
What happens when your options are limited? While this can become a negative, it’s not always the case. Some of the most profitable results in business and in life have come from limited funding, and it’s because people were forced to work around their limitations.
The longer you brood or dwell on what you do not have, the longer you take to complete, or even begin, achieving anything in the first place.
Sometimes the best thing to do when faced with limitations can be to speed up your personal timeline or work deadline in order to decrease the amount of work as well as increase your level of productivity. By cutting out anything unnecessary and streamlining your process, you reduce the number of resources you expend.
4. Strict Rules/Parameters
A large amount of leeway in anything can be both a good and bad thing. On the one hand, operating with as little rules as possible means you have more options, and as stated above, options are valuable.
However, this can also result in more work required, more time spent working and less focus. On the other hand, a clear set of rules and parameters can create a clear focus for productivity.
Rather than working long hours, days and nights on a wide-scope concept, narrow your path. Set your project in as tight a box as possible and then break that box into multiple pieces over a period of time.
Think about it in the sense of a distance runner — during a marathon you don’t want to sprint too fast for too long because you will run out of energy. It’s the people that jog nice and easy that reach the finish line.
What are other situations or instances where doing less can offer greater productivity in business or simply in your day-to-day lives? Let us know in the comments below