Published on May 3, 2016
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New research has found brains don’t like working more than 25 hours a week, especially brains older than 40.
The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research showed brain function worked on a sliding scale. No work each week was not good for brain health, but more than 25 hours a week was also problematic.
The fatigue and stress brought on by long work hours affected the brain’s ability to process information properly and detect errors. The researchers suggest the sweet spot for work hours is between 25 to 30 hours per week.
Two tips to work smarter, not harder
Work is inescapable. In small businesses particularly staff resources can be stretched thin and not everyone has the luxury of cutting back hours. Get more out of your day by working smarter, not harder with these two tips:
- Don’t let email rule your life. Schedule specific times throughout the day that you will attend to emails. Most people who use this method find checking and responding to emails two to three times a day is sufficient, usually in the morning, after lunch and before going home. Turn notifications off, put down your phone or close your email program if you have trouble not peeking between your scheduled email times.
- Chunk work and take breaks. Not only is it physically bad for you to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time, taking a mental break can help you stay focused and on task. Experts suggest working in 90 minute chunks followed by 15 minute breaks is most productive, but if your day doesn’t allow for that much time, even taking five minutes to get up and make a cup of tea or splash some water on your face can help refresh your attention span and keep your projects rolling.
The myth of multitasking
Some of us fall into the trap of thinking we can run our work lives like professional plate spinners. Unfortunately, the science is in and most of us just don’t have the brain wiring needed to multitask. Those who think they’re good at it often aren’t, and those who persist often turn in work of a lower standard than those who focus on one task at a time.
You can check your multitasking ability by watching the video below. You will need to download the multitasking exercise here to complete the exercise.