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5 Ways to Cut Your Work Hours Without Skimping on Productivity

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Being the first one into the office and the last one out at the end of the day has become a badge of honor, but working long hours doesn't necessarily mean you're getting a ton of work done. If you’re tired of burning the candle at both ends, read these expert tips on how to lessen your load without killing your productivity. That way, you can be the last one into your office and the first one out—but you’ll still get everything done on time.

1. USE THE 90-MINUTE RULE.

A study at Florida State University [PDF] that followed top athletes, actors, chess players, and musicians found that those at the top of their field work in 90-minute spurts, with breaks in between. They can focus more intensely in short bursts followed by recovery periods that allow them to recharge. The takeaway: Break every 90 minutes for the biggest benefit.

2. PRACTICE MENTAL HYGIENE.

Every day, take a five to 15-minute break during the day to re-group your brain, says Halle Eavelyn, a transformational coach who focuses on helping female entrepreneurs re-claim their lives. You could do this by focusing on your breathing—but if you want to do something more tangible, she suggests taking a short mindfulness meditation walk. “Notice the abundance of the blades of grass, notice the abundance of the leaves on the trees, the cars in the driveway,” Eavelyn says. “Come into the present moment, and you will begin to breathe easier, begin to relax, and feel less anxious. You’ll stop thinking about the bills and the deadline, and you’ll start thinking about the things that are right in front of you, which will make you focused and more productive at work.”

3. USE YOUR BEST HOURS WISELY.

Know when your brain is at its peak time, and make a list of the three to five things you could do each day during that time that will help you be more productive, says Jason Womack, California-based founder of Get Momentum, an online coaching program. Wunderlist is a great app to use as your to-do list; it allows you to organize tasks, set timers, and share your list with others so you can get more things done quickly.

4. USE TOOLS TO STOP PROCRASTINATING.

In 2007, nearly a quarter of the population were chronic procrastinators, compared with just 5 percent in 1978, according to a study in the Psychological Bulletin [PDF], and that number appears to be rising. Why? We have so many more distractions today than there were back in the '70s. But there’s a way to put a stop to them, Eavelyn says. Various apps and browser extensions can help, such as Stop Procrastinating, which will allow you to either disconnect from the internet for a certain period of time or prevent access from certain sites (hello, Facebook) so you can halt your distractions. Freedom ($2.50 per month) and Self Control (free) are others that can help if your own willpower isn’t as strong.

5. WORK FEWER HOURS.

In Germany and France, measures have been taken to prohibit sending work emails after hours. That’s because they understand that working harder during a shorter period of time is more productive. A researcher at Stanford University [PDF] found that the maximum number of hours for productivity is 48 hours per week. Once you go above that number, output starts to diminish. 

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Why Your Phone's Airplane Mode Isn't Just for Flying
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There are plenty of steps you can take to boost your productivity: You can design the perfect home office, buy an organizer, and pack your schedule efficiently. But none of that matters if you can’t help but check your phone every five minutes once you finally start a project. To avoid this distraction, Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, uses a surprisingly simple trick that he recently shared on his podcast.

As Business Insider reports, Ferriss has his phone on airplane mode for 80 percent of his day. That includes the hours after he's finished dinner and is winding down for bed all the way through the morning hours when he's planning the day ahead.

Cutting yourself off from all calls, texts, emails, and social media isn't always practical, especially during the work day when your coworkers might need to contact you. But if you ever set aside time to be alone, either for mindful reflection, personal projects, or general downtime, the only way to make sure you're really alone is to unplug. Leaving your phone in another room or powering down all together might be agitating if you're addicted to your phone, and even on vibrate mode phones can still be distracting. By switching it to airplane mode, you can get the mental comfort of checking your phone compulsively without the actual notifications to pull you away from your task.

For some people, breaking their addiction to technology isn't as easy as activating a setting on their phone. If you're serious about reducing your screen time, try these tips.

[h/t Business Insider]

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The Only Way to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ In a Job Interview
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Thanks in part to the influence of Silicon Valley and its focus on the psychological probing of job applicants, interview questions have been steadily getting more and more abstract. As part of the interview process, today's job seekers might be asked to describe a vending machine to someone who’s never seen one before, or plan a fantasy date with a famous historical figure.

Even if the company you’re approaching isn’t fully on board with prodding your brain, at some point you may still come up against one of the most common queries applicants face: "What is your greatest weakness?"

"Some 'experts' will tell you to try and turn a strength into a 'weakness,' to make yourself look good," writes Inc. contributor Justin Bariso. "That advice is garbage."

"Think about it," Bariso continues. "Interviewers are asking the same question to countless candidates. Just try and guess how many times they hear the answers 'being a perfectionist' or 'working too much.' (Hint: way too often.)"

While responding that you work too hard might seem like a reliable method of moving the conversation along, there’s a better way. And it involves being sincere.

"The fact is, it's not easy to identify one's own weaknesses," Bariso writes. "Doing so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback—qualities that have gone severely missing in a world that promotes instant gratification and demands quick (often thoughtless) replies to serious issues."

Bariso believes the question is an effective way to reveal an applicant’s self-awareness, which is why companies often use it in their vetting process. By being self-aware, people (and employees) can correct behavior that might be affecting job performance. So the key is to give this question some actual thought before it’s ever posed to you.

What is your actual greatest weakness? It could be that, in a desire to please everyone, you wind up making decisions based on the urge to avoid disappointing others. That’s a weakness that sounds authentic.

Pondering the question also has another benefit: It prompts you to think of areas in your life that could use some course-correcting. Even if you don’t land that job—or even if the question is never posed to you—you’ve still made time for self-reflection. The result could mean a more confident and capable presence for that next interview.

[h/t Inc.]

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