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The New Habit Challenge: Boost Productivity By Ending Every Workday At The Same Time

Will giving ourselves a stopping time for work and sticking to it help us be more productive the next day?

The New Habit Challenge: Boost Productivity By Ending Every Workday At The Same Time
[Photo: Flickr user 世書 名付]

When it comes to work, we often feel like we need to go on for hours without stopping–but how productive are we actually being at the 11th hour?

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As we’ve heard time and again, “busyness” does not equate to productivity. Journalist Brigid Schulte, who wrote Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, believes that while we may be able to work a few 60-hour weeks, eventually we will be so burnt out at the end that we lose the ability to be creative and innovative.

“When you look at human performance science, there’s such great evidence that working all of those hours really doesn’t get you where you want to go,” she says.

Rather than keep going for hours into the night, Mark Twain famously suggested we “eat a live frog first thing in the morning”–or, in other words, tackle the most important stuff first–since that’s when we are the most refreshed and ready to tackle the big stuff.

The antidote, then, suggests writer Belle Beth Cooper, is to set a firm cut-off time for work each evening, a good motivator to get important things done more quickly.

But what happens when your time is up and you’re in the middle of a task? According to Cooper, stopping while you’re in the midst of a task could actually work to your benefit. Many famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and Roald Dahl stopped writing mid-sentence or mid-paragraph, which made it much easier for them to pick up the pen again the next day.

For the next week, I plan to see if the antidote for drained productivity is to set a firm cut-off time for work each evening and quit working while I’m ahead. I hope you’ll join me.

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Log on to our New Habit Challenge Live Chat on Friday November 21 at 11 a.m. ET to find out how it went and share your thoughts. Or send an email with what you loved or hated about the challenge to habits@fastcompany.com by end of day Thursday, November 20.

About the author

Rachel Gillett is a former editorial assistant for FastCompany.com’s Leadership section. Her work has been featured on PopPhoto.com, AOL.com, and elsewhere.

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