The Key to Success? Work Fewer Hours.

September 30, 2009 | By | Comments (1)


Before I had a baby, I used to log some pretty long hours as a freelance journalist. I wasn’t in an office, so there was no impetus to get home—I was already there. And I was usually working toward several deadlines at once, so I often spent evenings and weekends at my desk.

Then I had a baby, and I had to rethink my whole work strategy. Since I spend my evenings and weekends caring for my child, I’ve had to fit my efforts into more normal working hours. And you know what? I’m the better for it. Now that I know that my workday has to end at a specific time, I’m much more efficient and focused on getting things done.

As it turns out, I’m not alone in this. A four-year study at Harvard has now found that workaholics who were forced to spend some repeated time away from their desks (every Wednesday night after 6:00, say) saw improvements in their work—better communication with coworkers, better planning, more efficient effort, etc.

Apparently, when you’re required to plan for time off, you become a shining beacon of productivity while you’re actively working. When you work all the time, there’s no real sense of urgency, because there’s no 5 p.m. deadline. (Heck, you’ve got all night, right?)

The lesson: Just because you’re putting in 60 hours a week doesn’t mean you’re doing 60 hours of super-excellent work. It could actually mean you’re not terribly well-organized. If you’re not obligated to burn the midnight oil, try planning some time off, and see if your workday becomes more focused.

What do you think of this idea?