A new big data study claims to have found a formula for ultimate productivity: work 52 consecutive minutes and then ditch the computer for 17 minutes of rest.
Worker productivity monitoring company, DeskTime, sorted through volumes of data on how quickly workers performed tasks and found interesting patterns in the elite, Olympic athletes of the office. “The reason the most productive 10% of our users are able to get the most done during the comparatively short periods of working time is that their working times are treated as sprints,” wrote Julia Gifford at the DeskTime Blog.
DeskTime’s results can’t be compared to the results found in university research: First, DeskTime has a limited population, and it can only make claims about the kinds of companies that willingly buy its software.
Second, averages tend to give us misleading precision. Just like the average family does not have 2.5 children, few if any people experiences their maximum productivity time in exactly 52 minutes. We’re guessing it’s probably a range of about an hour, with one third of an hour then taken as a break.
On the other hand, DeskTime isolated the 10 percent most productive employees and analyzed their behavior only, so there are no outliers in this study.
DeskTime’s general ratio — sprints of work followed by bouts of serious rest — is worth experimenting with. As an example, I’ve found that I can use my break time to super-charge my bouts of productivity. I discovered that by doing 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise (as measured by physiological reaction time tests), I could achieve the same cognitive benefits of coffee.
During my hourly breaks, I do 30 quick burpees, then I meditate and read the news. By this time, I’m ready to focus all my refreshed energy into work for the next hour.
Ultimately, it’s a game of experimentation to figure out your own formula. Feel free to tell us your own productivity tips in the comments section and read Desktime’s full blog post here.