Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Friday, December 16, 2011

The Law of Diminishing Returns

This week I read an article in the Harvard Business Review called “How to Accomplish More by Doing Less”. I was immediately drawn into this idea. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to make more happen in the time that they are given? I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned.

The article begins by giving examples of two men named “Bill” and “Nick” who have equal skill, who work at the same office and at the same hours, coming in at 9 a.m. each day and leaving at 7 p.m.

Rob Goates
Bill is the typical worker. He doesn’t stop for the whole 10 hours, he’s always in meetings and, in order to save time, he even eats lunch at his desk. He counts his productivity based on the amount of hours worked. He is like many of the workers in today’s society.

Then there’s Nick. He works intensely for approximately 90 minutes at a time, and then proceeds to take 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 3 pm, 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 5, Nick takes a 15 minute walk outside.

While they both work hard while they are at work, Nick takes the opportunity to refuel and put more energy into his eight hours of work than Bill has in his 10. Studies show that people who work like Nick have faster reaction time and make fewer mistakes as they are more alert. They also have more energy for other aspects of their lives outside of work, such as family and hobbies. They understand that they work to live, not live to work.

People around the world believe that Americans are working themselves to death. We need to discover the importance of smarter, not harder and as we do that, we will begin to realize that it is just as important to work hard as it is to unwind and recover.

- Rob Goates

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