CEO: Take more naps, vacations to boost productivity

Renew your energy to become more productive, efficient

Author and The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz last week explained his formula for maximizing productivity, which involves an appealing regimen of breaks, vacations, and sleep.

Writing in the New York Times, Schwartz said, "[T]he best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less." He emphasized "that the energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work."

Schwartz challenged the common belief that spending more time at the office will improve productivity. Instead, he promoted tactics that boost energy levels—including daytime workouts, afternoon naps, more sleep, and more vacations. "Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable," he wrote.

To demonstrate the impact of "strategic renewal" on job performance, productivity, and health, Schwartz cited various studies, including:

  • A 400-employee study that found sleeping less than six hours per night is one of the best predictors of job burnout, and that sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies $63.2 billion annually in lost productivity;
  • A Stanford University study that showed that basketball players who routinely slept 10 hours at night improved their performance, as indicated by their free-throw and three-point percentage shooting;
  • Studies on how short naps (40 minutes) improved air traffic controllers' vigilance and reaction time, while long naps (up to 90 minutes) improved memory test results as much as getting a full eight hours of sleep; and
  • A study that showed that every 10 hours of vacation time improved an employee's performance ratings by 8%.

Schwartz further noted that humans cycle from light to deep sleep every 90 minutes. He said we function similarly while we're awake, as we progressively cycle from a state of alertness to physiological fatigue over a similar 90-minute period.

As such, Schwartz often works in 90-minute intervals and focuses on restoring his mind and body to a new state of alertness in between cycles. This relaxing lifestyle maximizes his energy and efficiency and is fostered for all employees at his company, he wrote (Schwartz, Times, 2/9).

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