A prescription for maximizing productivity

“Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be prescription for maximizing productivity,” according to Tony Schwartz in the Sunday New York Times.

Rather than skipping sleep, breakfast, and breaks, Schwartz echoes a growing body of evidence that:

More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

It is part of the “renewal” process. Most people, especially in the Western Hemisphere, are horrible at it. We recognize intrinsically that mere mortals can only engage in any rigorous activity – mental or physical – for a limited duration before becoming largely unproductive. Yet, we continue to persevere whether it is because we are chronic overachievers, because we emphasize work over results, or because peer pressure (in which we are likely co-conspirators) seduces us to continue well past our optimal performance.

Supervisors, especially, should actively encourage, even reward activities that support renewal. After all, we are most concerned with outputs and outcomes. It is quality over quantity. If we can obtain the same or better results while using fewer inputs, that is the model of efficiency. And, if we also maintain happier, hence more productive, employees, we all should say “Mission Accomplished.”