I recently came across this article that kind of aggrandized the findings of a few surveys and studies regarding the optimality of the length of working hours. It somehow suggested in the title that 3-hour workday is good. You know what is better? A paid holiday! I am not serious. But I do not expect anyone to race through the office for 3 hours without taking a pause. That would be so exhausting! So, the title seems a little inflated. Anyhow!
What is funny is that my empirical experiments on the self agree with the figures in the rest of the article (this should apply fairly uniformly to the average Joes). A few days back, I had suggested a dear friend that they needed to cut down the work-day to 6 hours (discounted, because the person was talking about needing 48 hours in a day).
As for myself, I don't want to spend more time working unidirectionally than what I spent in school. That used to be nearly 6 hours, including a half hour lunch and occasionally, games period. In that too, a session used to be of about 45 or 50 minutes. Now, I have found that my work results add up better when they are compounded over time with smaller time installments (something like Warren Buffet's Compounding) per session.
How does it help? I think this is how it works: If time slices are smaller, then by breaking away from the task, I get a perspective shift. So, on a pee break, or on my way to some colleagues seat, I might actually get another idea of what I might be doing wrong. So, I guess it just helps realign. Also, it helps freshen up the mind and stretch the body. This, I think stands contrary to what today's work culture (among India's knowledge workers) seems to celebrate. But being present at the desk for the designated time does not necessarily translate to effective work being done.
Some old research had shown that an average person can hold his attention for nearly 45 minutes (and that might very well be the rationale behind a 50 min classroom session). But when is it best used? When the learning task is well structured - like reading a book or perusing a course, or being a pupil in a classroom rather than fishing for resources on the internet. Unstructured learning is fraught with distractions; filtering and sifting and would generally require more time.
There are, of course, override switches. This does not hold when I am in a flow. That might be when I am writing code, or when I am engaged in thinking of a design and am making some progress. And, reading a good book!
What do you think? How much time is your ideal maximum attention period?