4 Insights on the State of Productivity in 2022

Remember work in 2019? Remember getting fully dressed in business attire, commuting 30 minutes or more in traffic, and sitting in an office filled with other actual humans—every single day? Some of us are already returning to that old rhythm, while others could never imagine going back. 

Regardless of how you feel, there’s no question that the last two years have changed how we will work forever.  Where we work has changed, when we work has changed, and even our priorities for why we work have changed. Nothing demonstrates this more than the so-called Great Resignation

No surprise: Along with everything else, productivity has changed too. The pandemic accelerated a number of trends: flexible hours, remote work, and more. So what does productivity look like now that we’re on the other side?

We surveyed more than 200 high achievers across 10 key productivity categories to find out how they’re getting it all done. We asked about:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Daily rituals
  3. Energy management
  4. Sleep
  5. Work location
  6. Work hours
  7. Task management
  8. Work communication 
  9. Meetings
  10. Coworkers

You can download the full report for free here. But I wanted to use this space to share four insights from the survey that really grabbed me. I’m confident these insights can help you get an edge and be more productive today.

Insight 1: 78% of high achievers work remotely, but 69% are going back into the office at least one day per week.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things, but in regards to work, arguably the biggest shift in the past two years is from working in the office to working from home. We’ve talked about this in an episode of Lead to Win

People like the freedom of working at home. But it helps to drill down into that freedom. Work-life balance is tough when you spend an inordinate amount of time in the office or commuting to the office. When your commute is down the hallway, it leaves more time for family, fitness, and whatever else fits in the margin that enhances your life. 

Remote work broadens our margin. I find high achievers are usually more attuned to the value of their time than others. My guess is the value of that found time is too great for us to ever return to full-time office work, and I celebrate the flexibility.

That said, working remotely through the pandemic also reminded many of us that there are some things you simply can’t do over Zoom. Creative, collaborative meetings can happen virtually—but they’re often better in person. That’s because those meetings require trust to be truly effective, and that’s easier to cultivate and maintain in person. 

And that’s true for most positive aspects of team culture. We’re embodied people and need to attend to the physicality of productivity for us to make the most of it.

At Full Focus, we’ve adopted a hybrid work model where employees can work from the comfort of their homes or from the office. That way, everyone can be as productive as possible. If you’re a business owner or employer weighing the decision to bring people back to the office en masse, I recommend surveying your employees to discover where they feel they get their best work done and then coming up with a flexible plan that works for all involved.

Insight 2: 49% of high achievers work 50-plus hours per week.

Ever wonder how many hours per week the average high achiever works? The answer is, unsurprisingly, more than they are expected to work. Our survey revealed only 18% of achievers are expected to work more than 50 hours per week. However, 49% reported that they work 50 hours or more anyway. 

When you need to get more done, the natural inclination is to work longer. The truth is, overworking is a lose-lose scenario that hurts both the individual and the company. The extra hours are almost always paid for in your health, long-term productivity, or inevitable burnout.

Jack Nevison, founder of New Leaf Project Management, crunched the numbers from several different studies on long work hours. I cited his findings in my book Free to Focus. Push past 50 hours of work in a week, and Nevison found there’s no productivity gain for the extra time. In fact, it goes backward. One of the studies he examined found that 50 hours on the job only produced about 37 hours of useful work. 

At 55 hours, it dropped to almost 30. The more you work beyond a 50-hour threshold, according to this study, the less productive you become. Nevison calls this “the Rule of Fifty.” That means, based on the number of hours most of us work, we’re on the edge of working backward if we’re not doing so already.

A study of Microsoft employees’ workweeks confirms the point. While they clocked 45 hours on the job, only 28 were productive. That’s just under six good hours a day!

Next time you’re tempted to work more hours, take a step back to ask yourself this question: If I were forced to, how might I achieve this result working fewer hours than I already am? Get creative. The results may surprise you.

Insight 3: 35% of high achievers feel most energized between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.

Productivity is so much more than just time management. Equally as important is how you manage your energy. But we don’t often plan very well for it.

A lot of us passively accept whatever schedule comes most naturally. People book appointments whenever works best for them, and we agree to attend. Workplace inertia keeps standing meetings on the calendar at inopportune times. 

When it’s all said and done, what’s left is the calendar confetti of chopped-up time, and we’re forced to fit meaningful work in whenever we can. That’s usually before or after hours—contributing to the overwork of Insight 2. What’s needed is to take an intentional stand for working during your most productive hours. 

If you want to make massive progress on your most important goals and do it in a reasonable amount of time, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, When do I get my best work done? Figure out what time of day you’re most productive, and use it to knock out your most important tasks so you reach your goals faster.

Insight 4: Sleep is the most important self-care activity for 31% of high-achievers—but we struggle to get enough.

When I saw this number I was honestly surprised. Amidst the stress of the past two years, self-care has risen as a vital component of living a productive life. Of the achievers we surveyed, only 31% said that sleep is their most important self-care activity. But sleep really ought to be number one! 

Not all of us are early risers. And you don’t have to be a lark to be productive. Plenty of night owls are responsible for breakthroughs in their businesses. It’s important to respect your chronotype. But it’s important to get the sleep you need, whatever chronotype you are.

When we don’t get enough sleep, our focus, reaction time, and mental performance are all impaired, and we lose the ability to bring our best selves to the work at hand. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insufficient sleep has an estimated economic impact of $411 billion each year in the United States alone. 

Setting an alarm to get to bed on time and intentionally napping during the workday are both easy tricks. I also recommend doing some sleep analysis to upgrade your sleeping experience. I use an Oura ring for this. 

Whatever strategy you use to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, just do it.

It might sound counterintuitive, but if you’re looking for ways to boost your productivity in 2022, consider swapping your extra work hours for extra hours of sleep. That way, you’ll be able to operate at your highest capacity within the hours you’re working.

And if you want to dive deeper into the productivity habits and trends of other high achievers, download the complete State of Productivity 2022 report to see how your habits compare to 200-plus other high achievers across the 10 key productivity categories.

This report covers not only our current state of affairs, but it also shares helpful tips on how we can all improve our productivity. Download your copy of the report now.

Last modified on October 10th, 2022 at 9:23 am

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