Bill works his 10 hours essentially without stopping, juggling tasks at his desk and running between meetings all day long. He even eats lunch at his desk. Sound familiar?
Nick, by contrast, works intensely for approximately 90 minutes at a stretch, and then takes a 15-minute break before resuming work. At 12:15, he goes out for lunch for 45 minutes, or works out in a nearby gym.
At 3pm, he closes his eyes at his desk and takes a rest. Sometimes it turns into a 15- or 20-minute nap. Finally, between 4:30 and 5pm, Nick takes a 15-minute walk outside.
Bill spends 10 hours on the job. He begins work at about 80% of his capacity, instinctively pacing himself rather than pushing all out, because he knows he's got a long day ahead.
By 1pm, Bill is feeling some fatigue. He's dropped to 60% of his capacity and he's inexorably losing steam. Between 4 and 7pm, he's averaging about 40% of his capacity.
By 1pm, Bill is feeling some fatigue. He's dropped to 60% of his capacity and he's inexorably losing steam.
It's called the law of diminishing returns. Bill's average over 10 hours is 60% of his capacity, which means he effectively delivers 6 hours of work.
Nick puts in the same 10 hours. He feels comfortable working at 90% of his capacity, because he knows he's going to have a break before too long. He slows a little as the day wears on, but after a midday lunch or workout, and a midafternoon rest, he's still at 70% during the last three hours of the day.
Nick takes off a total of 2 hours during his 10 at work, so he only puts in 8 hours. During that time, he's working at an average of 80% of his capacity, so he's delivering just under 6 ½ hours of work – a half hour more than Bill.
Because Nick is more focused and alert than Bill, he also makes fewer mistakes, and when he returns home at night, he has more energy left for his family.
It's not just the number of hours we sit at a desk that determines the value we generate. It's the energy we bring to the hours we work.