Are you overworked, stressed-out, and exhausted all the time?
Of course you are — because we all are. Americans are notorious for working too much – for having to stay busy every moment of the day.
But by adopting and practicing a different way of getting the results you want each day, you just may find you accomplish more than you ever dreamed.
Many of us work full-time, and America runs on the “9 to 5” workday. We’re often up for hours before work trying to get things done for home or family, then we come home and have to stay productive for several more hours.
It’s no wonder we’re all exhausted – and why most people are unfulfilled.
It’s difficult to stay positive when you are caught on a hamster wheel of tasks and deadlines that never seem to end.
We often find ourselves in a slump partway through the day, and if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us are not engaged and productive at every moment during that 8-hour workday.
The U.S. is one of the only nations that has a 40-hour standardized workweek. In Europe and other countries, the typical workday is five or six hours, and many work no more than four days a week.
There is far more time for leisure and relaxation. They don’t feel the need to stay busy at all times. And they accomplish more in less time – with less stress.
Research has shown that for many Americans, productive work only occurs about half of that workday. And studies have shown that most people are most creative and focused on solutions when they are in a more relaxed environment and state of mind.
Psychologists who have studied European trends and seen the rise in burnout among Americans have recommended that in order to be our most productive selves – to best meet our potential – we should focus only 20 percent of our energy on work.
The other 80 percent should be about relaxation, recovery from work and tasks, and self-improvement like exercise, reading, and working on hobbies.
You’re probably saying, “Well, my boss would never let me work 20 percent of my schedule.” And you’re probably right.
But there are ways to be more deliberate in how we approach our work in order to keep work from being our whole life.
Experts have some tips, based on studies that show that most people have bursts of creativity and productivity for two to three hours at a time, usually twice a day.
Those who have “deliberately practiced” this 20/80 percent approach say they get up early in the morning (even though they don’t necessarily want to).
They find the first three hours of the morning lay the foundation for how their productivity level is the entire day, so it’s important to start off right.
Instead of working out first thing in the morning, they eat a healthy breakfast – and protein is always a part of it.
They journal or meditate or read for a few minutes, and they don’t wake themselves up with a pot of strong coffee (gasp!).
Immediately after waking up, our brains are at their most active and focused. This is also when we have the most self-control and willpower to take on a task.
If we’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, a couple of hours of dedicated work in the morning will be the most productive of the day.
After that first burst of work in the morning, they may take a break to walk or exercise. This not only prevents that mid-afternoon slump but offers a time for reflection and creative thought.
Psychologists find that our best ideas take place not at work, but when we allow our minds to wander off our to-do lists. This “indirect reflection” allows for much more productive thought, and when we’re “directly reflecting” on a task, we often can’t focus on it.
While many of us are tied to a set 9-5 schedule, companies are now realizing that being flexible with hours and tailoring schedules to individuals makes their employees more productive on the job.
Even if you don’t think you’re a morning person, you may want to give this “dedicated practice” a try.
Give yourself more time to reflect on self-improvement and self-awareness. Don’t feel guilty for saying “no” or taking a break when you need it. Get adequate sleep, and get an early start.
You may be surprised to find you’ve finished everything on that long to-do list before the day is half over!