The Best Way to Increase Your Productivity? Work Less!

Sandy Writtenhouse 17-01-2017

Wouldn’t we all like to work less hours? Between a huge list of tasks to complete, high expectations to put in long hours, and trying to meet deadlines, it can be tough. We often find ourselves working longer hours each day and week, but studies show that this can actually decrease your productivity These 10 Distractions Are Crushing Your Productivity No one can escape the distractions of doom! Read More .


We’ll show you why your productivity suffers when you work too much and what you can do to get more done in less time.

The Science

The Productivity of Working Hours, published in the Economic Journal in 2015, is one of the most referenced studies on the subject. The author, John Pencavel, is a Senior Fellow with the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. The conclusions confirm that working more than 48 hours per week can decrease your productivity.

Some conclusions regarding output show:

This point where the marginal product starts to decline varies with the workers and with the work done. For hours of 48 or less, weekly output tends to be proportional to weekly hours worked and the decline in the marginal product of hours occurs after 48 weekly hours.

And, final case study conclusions note:

…employees at work for a long time may experience fatigue or stress that not only reduces his or her productivity but also increases the probability of errors, accidents, and sickness that impose costs on the employer.

If you are interested in reading the complete case study, you can obtain a PDF copy from the Institute of Labor Economics website.


It is clear that working excessive hours can not only cause a decrease in productivity, but put employees at greater risks of problems as well. And makes complete sense: the longer you work, the more tired you become How Changing 4 Key Habits Can Help You Fight Job Fatigue Job fatigue, also known as job burnout is one of the symptoms of stress. What can you do to stop it? How can you avoid it? Change some old habits and build new ones. Read More and the less focused you turn out to be. This can certainly decrease your productivity and leave room for errors or even dangerous conditions, depending on the industry.

The Challenge

Even if you read the entire study and know in your mind that it is conclusive, there is still a problem, right? How do you reduce the number of hours you work?

For some it may be simple: work your 40 hours and be on your way. But, for many it is not that easy. Depending on your field and career, long hours may just be a part of the job. Or, due to expectations, guilt, self-satisfaction, or fear, you may decide on your own that you must work more hours Discover Your Most Productive Hours with This Simple Method Build your perfect workday around your energy levels. This simple Excel spreadsheet and a few seconds of work each day could help you change your habits and get more done. Read More .

Start by Reviewing Your Work Hours

If you are in a position where the number of hours you work per week is self-imposed, you can probably fix that. If your job requires that you work 38 hours per week but you normally put in 50, ask yourself why. Think about how productive you really are when working those extra 12 hours. And then decide if it is actually worth it.


Exhausted worker
Image Credit: Jutarat Buadok via Shutterstock

Now maybe you are the opposite and in a position where long hours are a must. If you are unable to reduce the number of hours you work, do not worry because there are still things that you can do.

Put Effort Into Solutions

Regardless of which category you fall into regarding your work hours, these suggestions can help. You will likely not find one perfect solution, so try to combine a few of these tips. See what works best for you and go with it.

Time worker cog solution
Image Credit: Light And Dark Studio via Shutterstock


Use Your Time Off

One thing you can do is to take advantage of the time off you earn. Personal days, vacation days, and similar benefits that provide you time away from work can help.

Relaxation by waterfall and lake
Image Credit: Alohaflaminggo via Shutterstock

This allows you to relax, spend time with friends and family, catch up on rest, have fun, and much more. You work hard and the time off you earn is well-deserved, so use it.

Manage Your Time Wisely

Consider managing your time differently to reduce any unnecessary overload and stress. With handy tools, habit changes, and the willingness to adjust, better time management may be just the ticket. While the topic of time management 9 Best Time Management Tools for Staying Organized The time management tools shown here will assist you with making the most of your days. Suitable for any business or personal situation. This is the time to organize your life! Read More is a subject all its own, you can certainly benefit from a few key concepts.


Track Your Time

First, track your time. This allows you to see exactly how much time you spend on tasks. Once you review how and where you spend your time, it is easier for you to make adjustments.

toggl mobile iphone

A terrific time tracking tool called Toggl can help. The application is available on the web, with browser extensions, and on mobile devices The Best Time Tracking App for Android, iOS, and Desktop We show you how time tracking can benefit you or your team, what to look for in time tracking software, and the best cross-platform application we could find for the job. Read More . With a click you can start and stop tracking tasks and then review by the day, week, or month where your time went.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Now that you see how you spend your time, it is time to prioritize. Did you spend an excessive amount of time on a task 13 Practical Tips to Get More Done, One Thing at a Time This is the age of multi-tasking. But is it productive or is it our biggest stress villain? Evidence says that you can get more done by focusing on one task at a time. Read More that could have been done later? Did you take on the most important tasks first? Are there tasks that are actually unnecessary?

One popular method that you can use for prioritization is called the Eisenhower Matrix. This allows you to put your tasks into four different buckets for Do First, Schedule, Delegate, and Don’t Do. At a quick glance, you can easily see what you should tackle first, second, third, and last.

You can check out the website [Broken URL Removed] to use this trusted method of prioritization online. For mobile devices you can look at Eisenhower for iOS ($2.99).

Delegate What You Can

After you have prioritized your tasks, decide which of them you can delegate to others. It is possible that you don’t have to complete all of the items yourself. So if you can shift tasks to employees or team members, do it.

For organizing the tasks you want to delegate, try using a tool like Meistertask. This application, like Toggl, is available via the web and across mobile platforms. This way, you are always on track with who is doing what and when it is completed.

meister task notification settings

By using just these few time management concepts you can create more free time and reduce work time. And, if you can stick to it, you are sure to notice not only an improvement in your productivity, but your state of mind too.

What Do Long Hours Do to You?

Have You Noticed a Relation Between Your Productivity and Long Hours? If you have realized that you become less productive the more hours you work, have you made changes? It can be difficult to reduce work hours How Just 4 Steps Can Help You Enjoy a 5-Hour Work Day Spending long hours on work isn't necessary. You can use some proven methods and tools to help you achieve a 5-hour work day and maximize productivity. Read More in many industries, but proper time management can help.

Have you used any of these tips and if so, did they work for you? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Image Credits: alphaspirit/Shutterstock

Related topics: Planning Tool, Task Management, Time Management.

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  1. Howard A Pearce
    January 17, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    "Efficiency is the (often measurable) ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing a desired result." WIKI

    "Productivity is an average measure of the EFFICIENCY of production." WIKI

    While I get some of the thrust of the article, the suggestion that EFFICIENCY of production can be best increased by working less is a big overstatement.
    Efficiency will be determined by achieving the required goals in the required amount of time with the least waste. This may very well require people to work more regardless of their output per hour. It will probably require that one is productive at the appropriate hours also - like 9AM to 5PM rather than 9PM to 5AM.

    These seem obvious to me. I have to wonder if MUD doesn't have some other agenda in suggesting that working less is more productive.