How much work is too much work? Do workers reach a point when an excessive amount of work so fatigues them mentally and physically that their productivity takes a hit and their health declines?
The Draugiem Group conducted a study which tracked employees’ work habits. They discovered that employees that took short breaks of around fifteen minutes every hour were much more productive than those who tried to power through without stopping.
The brain operates in a high energy mode for about an hour and then in a low energy mode for fifteen to twenty minutes. For most, during these low energy periods, they are distracted and their productivity dips. By powering through this distracted period rather than taking a break and refueling, a lack of focus may continue even during the high energy period. The study found that those who took a break for fifteen minutes, and completely disengaged from work, could recommit 100% of their focus on their task once they re-engaged.
We see from a daily perspective how our minds and productivity are affected by too much continuous work but how about on a weekly basis? The Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have researched the mental and physical effects of a forty plus hour work week. Below is a collection of their findings.
- Working more than 10 hours a day is associated with a 60 percent jump in risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Working more than 40 hours a week is associated with increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy weight gain in men and depression in women.
- Little productive work occurs after 50 hours per week.
- In companies with normal overtime, only 23 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent. In companies with high overtime, 54 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent.
- Individuals working 11 hours or more of overtime have an increased depression risk.
- Injury rates increase as work hours increase. Those who work 60 hours per week have a 23 percent higher injury hazard rate.
- In manufacturing industries, a 10 percent increase in overtime yields a 2.4 percent decrease in productivity.
- In white collar jobs, productivity declines by as much as 25 percent when workers put in 60 hours or more.
Working too much in one day and in one week can produce detrimental side effects to an individual’s productivity and physical well-being, but how about in a year?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that in 1976 more than 9 million Americans took vacation while in 2014 that number was down to only 7 million. According to research by the NY Times, taking a vacation every two years significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease as compared to taking a vacation once every six years. In addition the research suggests that workers are more productive after returning from vacation. Ernst & Young conducted a study of its employees and discovered their employees’ year-end performance ratings improved eight percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation they took and in addition those who took frequent vacations were less likely to leave the firm. Additional studies also suggest that frequent vacationers suffer less from depression and possess higher emotional levels.
For many taking a break whether it is every hour, every day, week or year, probably feels very counter- productive, but as you can see from the research above, taking one step back on the beach in your flip flops might enable you to take two steps forward in the office.
I won’t cop out and say that you need a little bit of both. Certainly you require talent to achieve success, and few people succeed long term without hard work, but which contributes the most?
A recent study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that when rated by a group of 383 participants, entrepreneurs who demonstrated greater talent were more favored over those perceived as hard working but with less talent. A follow-up study showed that in order to be as appealing as those with natural talent, the hard workers would require 28 more IQ points and an additional four and one-half years of leadership experience.
People appear to value talent far more than hard work. This idea could not be more obvious in the sports world. Every year the NBA and NFL drafts are broadcast so fans can see if their team will land the most coveted talent which will turn around the ailing fortunes of their franchise. More often than not however, the talented young athlete which so dominated in college, flames out in the pros. ESPN recently released a list called “The Could Have Beens” in which sixty of their experts chose the top 25 athletes who failed to live up to their potential. Ever heard of Sam Bowie? He has the dubious misfortune of being the guy selected number two in the 1984 NBA draft ahead of Michael Jordan. Few remember him. Though many athletes on the ESPN list succumbed to career shortening injuries, many simply did not put in the hard work and effort. Despite this, year after year franchises gamble large paychecks on top talent for a quick fix, not realizing that players willing to put in the hard work are every bit as rewarding and often last longer.
“Grit” a book by Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that a combination of passion and perseverance (grit) contributes more to success than intelligence or inherent talent. She provides a number of examples such as “gritty” children who studied and competed more in spelling bees, performed better in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She also showed that West Point cadets who scored high on the grit scale were more able to endure the intensive seven week training program, Beast Barracks, through which they were put. Grit, in this instance, was a better predictor than SAT scores or athletic ability.
There are of course other contributors to success like a great coach or teacher Duckworth points out but effort is the key. She writes, “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”
Michael Phelps is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. He is 6’4” with a 6’7” reach. His knees are double-jointed and his feet can rotate 15 degrees more than average which allow his feet to act more like flippers. His body is built for speed in the water! However his success is obtained through effort. In peak training mode Phelps swims 50 miles a week. He trains 5-6 hours a day, six days a week!
If you focus 30-35 hours a week on improving any skill whether it is writing, playing the piano, or giving presentations, your chances of succeeding improve exponentially.
Undoubtedly you recall the show, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” but in our society or really any, the more appropriate question might be, “Who Doesn’t Want to Be a Millionaire?” Below are several facts and insights gathered together by individuals who have studied and found commonalities among the rich.
Thomas Corley spent five years studying the rich and in his book, “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals” points out eight daily rituals the rich share:
- They have a daily must-do list
- They don’t watch TV
- They read the financial times
- They are healthy eaters
- They never stop learning
- They rise early
- They prioritize self-improvement
- They exercise
Steve Siebold interviewed over 1,200 of the world’s wealthiest people and in his book, “How Rich People Think” he details seven truths that millionaires hold about money.
- Money can solve most problems
- Your level of education is not the key to getting rich
- Do what you love and the money tends to follow
- You don’t need money to make money
- If you want money, you have to go after it
- Self-employed people determine the size of their own paycheck
- They start thinking like a rich person
In his book, “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life”, Thomas Corley points out that rich people make a daily choice not to follow the herd. Corley suggests, “failure to separate yourself from the herd is why most people never achieve success. You want to separate yourself from the herd, create your own herd and then get others to join it.”
Steve Siebold seems to echo this belief by suggesting the average person has trouble breaking free from their comfort zone. “Physical, psychological and emotional comfort is the primary goal of the middle class mindset,” but he says that world class thinkers, “…learn to be comfortable while operating in a state of ongoing uncertainty.”
Perhaps the most significant trait that the wealthy share in common according to Corley is positivity. “Long term success is only possible when you have a positive mental outlook.” The majority of the people in Corley’s study limited their contact with pessimistic individuals while eighty-six percent regularly associated with success-minded individuals.
As journalist Napoleon Hill put it, “There is no hope of success for the person who repels people through a negative personality.”
So, who wants to be a millionaire? Everyone? Who really has the will and discipline to become rich? Very few!