Work Smarter, Not Harder: How To Hack Your Productivity With Science!

in life •  2 years ago

What do you do when you have a long to-do list? Probably try to check off as many tasks as possible, only allowing yourself a few breaks?
Well, studies have shown that this approach actually reduces our overall effectiveness.
Forcing yourself to focus for hours and hours actually makes you feel more tired and distracted, and keeps you working slower and longer.
That's also why a 9 to 5 job with only one long lunch break is the wrong approach!

The solution based on science: Work in Intervals!

The solution seems to be so easy, but yet incredibly effective: working in intervals with regular, scheduled breaks keeps you refreshed and revives creativity and inspiration.


Circadian Rhythm

Most of you are probably with our circadian rhythm, our sleep-wake cycles and the different phases of sleep.
Every night, we go through different stages of sleep (from light sleep, to deep sleep, and finally the REM stage where we dream). These stages repeat over and over again in a cycle, until we wake up.

But did you know that these phases don't only apply to our sleep, but also when we're AWAKE?

Ultradian Rhythm

The Ultradian Rhythm is our brain-wave frequency cycle, an inner body clock during the times we are awake.
This rhythm follows a 90-120 minute cycle, which repeats over and over during the day.

So to use this knowledge to your advantage, plan your work in 90-minute sessions with following 20-minute breaks!

This is sometimes also nicknamed the 90/20 rule.
Studies have shown that people who divide their work in several 90-minute sessions with breaks in between do not only get more work done, but also feel more energized and motivated at the end of the day.

Tips to execute the 90/20 rule

  • Prepare for your intense 90 minute session. Get a glass of water, make sure you aren't hungry or feeling any other discomfort, and sit down comfortably.
  • Cancel out distractions! Set your phone to silent, close the door, and close all other windows/applications on your computer.
  • If you do get distracted during the 90 minutes: count down how much longer you need to work until your break, and imagine how you will treat yourself after this session (for example by having a snack or going for a quick walk outside).
  • If 90 minutes of concentration are too long for you, try 45 minutes, a 10 minute break, and then again 45 minutes and a break. Or try the Pomodoro method below.

The 'Pomodoro' Method

Doesn't Pomodoro mean "Tomato" in Italian?! Yes it does!

The so-called Pomodoro Method was created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980's. It got its name because Cirillo was using a tomato-shaped kitchen time while developing this method!
First, you outline a to-do list of all the tasks you want to accomplish that day.

Then you divide the work in smaller sections of 25 minute work intervals. (These are the "pomodoros".)

After each successful pomodoro, you get a 5 minute break, and after 4 completed pomodoros you can have a 15-20 minute break.

Since 3-4 pomodoros also make up one ultradian cycle, this is kind of in sync with your natural body clock.
It's a great alternative for people who either can't or don't have the time to focus on 90 minute sessions. Also, these shorter sessions tend to keep people more motivated - because even if you get distracted during your pomodoro, looking at the clock and knowing that you will have a short break relatively soon will keep you going.

How do you make sure to stay productive during the day? Do you have any other tips or methods to share? Leave a comment below!

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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Omg, that's some useful science that we can apply in our everyday life. These useful tips can greatly enhance our productivity when we are working or studying and it is not so difficult to do so. Thanks

Very interesting, I shall try this. Water and exercise I love. Anything to help improve as I work long hours!

Where did you get all this info? Super informative. Easier said than done, but once it's done, everything becomes so much easier (so I've heard😂)


Definitely - once you try it, you will notice that it really works, you will get more done in a shorter period of time. And then you can have some guilt-free chillout time afterwards!

I'll try the pomodoro technique, because 90 minutes of concentration is impossible for me haha.


Yes, 90 minutes can be really long.
The pomodoro method will be much easier for you, try putting your phone on airplane mode and setting a timer 25 minutes.
And in those 25 minutes, try really hard not to get distracted. you will feel awesome when you accomplished it and get your well deserved break!

This is really great advice thanks for the info!
My upvote is now worth .01 so please enjoy lol
Resteemed and Followed

Great post and very detailed. Thanks for sharing if Steemit ever starts doing Collaborations, I would love to write something with you! You get so detailed and to the point. Everything you write is so well researched. Keep up the awesome work.

I struggle with this. I have a task list as long as your arm, but I don't seem to get more than a few things knocked off before I'm feeling bogged down, getting distracted, losing steam. I've gotta try this.

The Pomodoro method never worked for me because I felt teh 25 minutes was way to short. But the Ultradian Rhythm method sounds much more natural to me. Going to try it.

Hi @sirwinchester,

Nice article! I almost always recommend The Pomodoro Technique, particularly when learning is the desired outcome of the task being focused on. My clients are busy adults, challenged when it comes to putting in the time to improve their foreign language skills. By waking up a bit earlier and going to be a bit later they can squeeze in one pomodoro in the morning and another in the evening, thereby spending more focused time with the language they are trying to get better at.

​Niamaat​ aka Teacher Nia aka Prima Nia
English Language Coach and
Translator (Spanish to English)

P.S. “Be great because nothing else pays.” -– Grant Cardone

overall great info, thanks for sharing your knowledge!


Thanks and glad you enjoyed it :)

That was awesome writing! Very useful indeed.

These are some great tips. I kinda found this in my own experience. I always noticed that doing something for a long period of time just makes me tired and decreases productivity. I started taking short brakes between everything I do. For example, I used to write really long blog posts for my website and if I didn't take a brake every 40 minutes, I'd find myself not knowing what to write and lose motivation to do anything because I just want it done as quickly as possible. Definitely work smarter, not harder !


Interesting that you've even experienced this yourself!
It's really true, once you get to the point of forcing yourself to keep working you will become demotivated and easily distracted.


Exactly ! And there's no productivity in that.

Very interesting post about how to get more productive! I will try some of these examples out for sure.
Please upvote, reply, resteem and follow @victorvazco thank you, you're awesome!


Thank you, happy to hear that!

Thanks a lot for sharing such a wonderful methods and techniques to increase productivity @sirwinchester. I will try them.

Perfect! Something to refer back to for a serial procrastinator like myself.

Upvoted, resteemed, and now has a place in my bookmarks (basically, my new reference guide on productivity).

This is a fantastic post.

I'm currently working on a handful of projects. Some which weren't originally planned. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed. I've had to learn how not to.

Great post.


Thank you 😄
If you have a lot to do, write a list, prioritize, and then divide the work into intervals. That way you make sure that the most important things definitely get done.

Working smarter is the best decision! :D


Yes 👍 💪
smart and hard is the key to ultimate productivity!

Really a great informative article. I personally, use Pomodoro technique, and it works like a charm. If anybody willing to try this method, I would suggest you download Pomodoro apps, there are tonnes of such kindda apps on the store. Best interval pattern to follow is 25-5-25-5-25-5-25-15.

Means, take 5 minutes of break after every 25 minutes of work. And once you completed 4 sets of 25 minutes, take a long break of 15minutes.

Do note that, spend those leisure time in burning your stress. You could try listening to your fav. music or take a walk around your home/working space. Don't think anything about the work during that time so that you can comeback to work with refreshment and all energetic.


Awesome idea with the app - everyone should give this a try!
Thanks for sharing your experience, glad to hear that it already works so well for you.

Very informative


Thank you 😬

I think you are totally right with this!... I never schedule my working time like that, but lately i just work as many as i feel motivated, and surprisingly most of my work sessions are around the 90 min, i just stop when i feel tired or out of concentration... I know the time because i have done this when working for upwork and i use the time tracker... This is also probably the reason why most movies are around 90 min long...

The US Military actually practices this. In school or training all of our classes and lectures are 50 minutes with a 10 minute break before the next 50 minute session.

What about the Steemian rhythm?

This is a great post for me to rethink my Steemit activities. To be honest I'm not near as productive as I should be on here. I'm easily side tracked because there is so much good content on here!


Hahaha, yes I can relate to that!
It's definitely a great method to apply to writing steemit posts as it keeps the creativity and inspiration alive.

Very good article for those who want to better organize their time. Personally, I recommend to try these three kind of session:

  • 30 minutes work / 10 minutes rest;
  • 60 minutes work / 20 minutes rest;
  • 90 minutes work / 30 minutes rest.

They work great for me and my friends.

Too bad most J.O.B.'s don't allow workers to manage their own schedule like this.

Why not do both?
Work smarter and harder.
This article has a lot of 'Work Smarter' principles that combined with hard work ethic and hustle will really make you great.


Of course, that's the ultimate way to work effectively!


amen amen. Just not want people to infer from the title it is only one.

This is the approach I took to my revision; meant I could condense the majority of my work into 2 -3 days per exam.

I was unaware of a lot of this, great info! Upvoted!

Nice, breaking work into little sections gives you satisfaction of getting stuff done.


Yes that's a good point as well! And it keeps your motivation and creativity up!

Im posting this at my radio station. I know it will help :-)

Um, an extra break from work, you say? I'll take two please. ;)

Work in intervals? Tell that to the management or the people who are on steemit more than 12h a day. haha.
Actually, I didn't learn about the pomodoros and chunking couple of years ago in course in Coursera.
I think the title is Learning to Learn. quite enlightening.
Taking breaks is important.

Excellent piece of work

So true, I am realizing it more and more as I get older! Very interesting about the different phases we go through while were awake. Ive never heard or thought of that before. Thanks for the post, this one actually tought me something I think could be very important :) I'm following you!


Thank you, I appreciate that! And glad to hear that I could teach something new!

work smarter - exactly!


Very informative. Will have to read that twice to digest it!


I'm glad that I could provide some valuable information! 😄

Breaks are indeed very important! Also going regularly outside and getting some fresh air and exercise helps for a better concentration.

Thanks for the Helpful Post, very practical.

Great article - thank you.

Forbes had a similar article I read this morning - they went with 52 minutes - hour with a 15 min break:


I didn't see that one yet, very interesting! Thanks for sharing that!

Excellent post! Thanks for sharing these tips. I enjoyed the visuals too. Best of luck!!

@sirwinchester. i could not agree more sir.

I didn't realize it, but I have been currently working on this cycle. Not necessarily aware of the time, I need to walk away every 90 minutes. Solid piece of reporting and helpful to people striving to be more productive. Thanks for writing the piece.


That's awesome, seems like you listened to your inner body clock and already found your own rhythm!

For me, first I prioritize. Then, I go at it. Rarely do I finish my "to-do" list so the least important things carry over to the next day. Also, I tend to be a perfectionist. That can be both good and bad, but it usually causes me to take longer at certain tasks. I rarely cut corners. Also, sometimes I delegate what I can.

I stay productive by getting proper nutrition and hydration, as well as doing exercise and meditation. We must take care of ourselves before we can take care of anything or anyone else.


True, you should always start with the most important / hardest things on the list because then they get done for sure, and also you're most productive a few hours after waking up!


Yes. I have my most energy in the morning, too.

I recently discovered which is the best Pomodoro timer I've seen so far. Very simple and quick to use (which I consider a must), and it also has statistics on how many Pomodoros and breaks you have had in a day. You might be interested.

Loved your posts! Following!