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Work Less, Achieve More

Work Less, Achieve More

Every time I study anything in detail, I find that less is always more, without exception.

I know there’s a heroic thread throughout our society (I.E. northern European, Anglo Celtic) that the only way to get things done is through a nose to the grindstone approach, but this approach is simply not true, and more to the point has simply never been.

Brains – thinking and planning a solution always beats sheer hard work.

At the battle of Culloden in 1746 for example, the reason the British beat the Scottish highland charge is because they realised that the man in front of them had a shield in his left hand that stopped their bayonet. However he raised his right arm to attack with his sword. Solution? The British soldiers were instructed to bayonet not the man in front of them who was attacking them directly, but the man to their right who was attacking the soldier next to them. The application of a little brain power beat the courage and ferocity of the Scots.

Throughout the industrial revolution we saw that increases in productivity were always the result of innovation, not just doing what has always been done.

But let’s fast forward to the present day and two little snippets I have learned lately.

First is a way of working called 52:17. Simply put, you work in concentrated bursts of 52 minutes, followed by a 17 minute break.

The average office worker usually tends to get in at 8:30 leave at 5. Coffee break at 10, lunch at 12:30. Apart from that it’s supposed to be nose to the grindstone. It obviously never happens like that, people’s attention wanders later in the day because they have attempted to do the nose to the grindstone thingy and their brain can no longer focus by that time of the afternoon.

So if instead you have longish breaks when you are still fresh, you never get stale.

The next one is that if you sleep after learning something (i.e. a lecture or some study) you remember it. Now this is definitely totally counter to the nose to the grindstone heroic, cramming all night thing that tradition – and let’s face it, only tradition – dictates.

Work harder… rubbish. Working smarter trumps working harder every single time. Without fail. What do you want? A medal for your martyrdom or results. Take your pick. I know which one I’m choosing.

One other snippet for you. If you think being more productive will make you happier, it’s actually the other way round. Being happier will make you more productive. So focus on getting happy first, and then do your stuff.

Image Source: Anna Langova

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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