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Jun 21st, 2021 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Five Magic Hours

A recent article in WIRED UK caught my eyes — it discussed the workplace experiments going on around the world where companies limit the number of hours their employees work. The results of the accompanying studies are consistent: Despite fewer hours worked, productivity goes up. The author goes on to explore the deeper cut of the pros and cons (as cutting hours doesn’t come without a price).

The world described in the piece stands in stark contrast to the “work all hours”–reality many of us live through. Much has been said about this, and I — for one — am not a friend of the “work hard / play hard”-fetish. What stood out from the article, and what made me pause, though, was this:

“Research indicates that five hours is about the maximum that most of us can concentrate hard on something.”

Reflecting on this, I believe this to be broadly speaking true. Even when I end up working long hours, the actually productive and creative hours typically amass to about five in a given day. Which made me organize my day around those five hours — I try to get five good, solid hours of creative and highly productive work out of every day and use the remaining hours for routine tasks, errands, email, and the like.

We ought to stop beating ourselves up about working hard and long, rather acknowledge our limitations and find the optimal use of our productive time; become deeply protective of those five hours and relax into the remaining 19…

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