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Why a “1-hour workday” could maximize your career


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Photo: Stocksy/Aleksandra Jankovic

Ever feel like your day flies by, leaving you with a to-do list that’s even longer than the one you wrote at 8 a.m.? All it takes to feel like you’ve had a successful day, according to one researcher, is a one-hour power hour first thing in the morning.

Okay, you don’t exactly get to sign off on your day by 10 a.m., but Jeffrey J. McDonnell, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, writes in Science magazine that what he calls the “one-hour workday” is the key to being productive.

McDonnell devotes the first hour of his day to what he considers the “real” work of academia, outside of his day-to-day goals and responsibilities: writing papers.

“I plan my early-morning writing the night before. It is in my calendar and on my to-do list, with details about which paper and section I will be working on,” he writes.

While writing papers is specific to McDonnell’s field, you can apply the logic to your own job: Think of it as the time to complete that chunk of creative juice-flowing that sometimes gets pushed to the side throughout your day.

Maybe you want to make the case for a new project at work, develop an innovation that will transform your product line, or write a business plan for your very own startup. Devoting an hour a day—before meetings, emails, or other distractions pop up—will move you, in small increments that really add up, in a direction that’s meaningful to you.

“This routine has transformed my work life,” McDonnell writes. “Instead of the frustration that frequently plagued me early in my career, now—no matter how work proceeds after I’ve completed my writing time—I go home at the end of the day with the satisfaction of having accomplished something.”

So set your clocks: Even if you’re already waking up early for that meditation and lemon water, think of this as your new productivity-filled “me time.”

Don’t stop there: This productivity hack will help your brain feel better—instantly—while helping you tackle your to-do list. And find out how to get ahead at work, from outside of the office.