Many people assume that getting a lot of work done means spending more time in the office, which also means cutting time out for the more relaxing aspects of life. The common train of thought is that success requires more work, more stress, and less sleep.
But it might be time to rethink that approach.
Just as there are only 24 hours in a day, there's a limit to how much we can work. Rather than working non-stop for hours until our work is done, there's a more effective method for working quickly.
What the Practice Routines of Top Performers Teaches Us
In a study of violinists, researchers found that the top performers practiced the same way: in the morning for three sessions, each session lasting no longer than 90 minutes, and a break in between each session. This pattern was also found amongst chess players, athletes, and writers.
It's interesting to see how top artists and athletes practice their craft. We normally picture someone who trains or works intensely for hours non-stop each day, when the secret may be to work in short bursts, with rest in between.
When many of us are hard at work, we fight through our fatigue by downing cups of coffee, junk food, and forcing ourselves to stay alert. What happens is that our bodies move into the "fight or flight" state of mind, distorting our thinking and ability to rationalize.
While many of us believe that we simply don't have the time to rest, one look at Winston Churchill's routine might be enough to convince us otherwise.
Winston Churchill's Daily Routine
Winston Churchill, who served as the British Prime Minister during WWII, followed the same daily routine as follows:
7:30 a.m.: He awoke and remained in bed to eat his breakfast and read the newspapers. From his bed, he continued working, while dictating to the secretaries.
11:00 a.m.: He got out of bed to take a walk around the garden, then poured himself a whiskey and soda.
1:00 p.m.: Churchill joined guests and family for a multi-course lunch.
3:30 p.m.: He worked from his study, supervised the estate, or played board games with his wife.
5:00 p.m.: He took a nap for an hour and a half, a habit he had acquired while in Cuba. He claimed that naps allowed him to do a day and a half's work in 24 hours.
6:30 p.m.: He woke, bathed, and prepared himself for dinner.
8:00 p.m.: Churchill had dinner with guests, where drinks and cigars accompanied the meal. Often they would stay up past midnight. Afterward, Churchill would return to his study and work for an hour before bed.
What was most surprising about his routine was that Churchill, despite accomplishing so much, spent a good portion of his day in bed. He even claimed that having a nap was an enabler to productivity.
While you might not be able to sneak in a whiskey before lunch, getting a good night's rest can be incorporated into anybody's routine to get more done.
If you've been working for a while and start losing focus, consider putting aside your work. I've had times where I couldn't concentrate anymore and decided to either go for a walk or a nap. Afterward, I found myself feeling more refreshed and alert.
Good News for Busy People
The good news is that you don't have to slave for hours to get more done. And you shouldn't, either. Instead, a better strategy is to work in set periods and give yourself time away from your desk.
When you're mentally alert, better at generating ideas, and have more free time, then it means you're on your way to becoming super-productive.