We learned that eight hours of work a day is what we’re supposed to do almost as soon as we step foot into a classroom. School days are eight hours long and classes are usually structured by slots of time rather than what is accomplished in that time.
How the 40-hour work week came to be
During the Industrial Revolution, factories needed to be running around the clock so employees during this era frequently worked between 10-16 hour days.
In the 1920s however, it was Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, that established the 5-day, 40-hour work week.
Surprisingly, Ford didn’t do it for scientific reasons (or solely for the health of his employees). Rather, one of the main reasons he came up with the idea to reduce the working hours of his staff was so employees would have enough free time to go out and realize they needed to buy stuff.
Leisure is an indispensable ingredient in a growing consumer market because working people need to have enough free time to find uses for consumer products, including automobiles. — Henry Ford
So the 8-hour work day, 5-day workweek wasn’t chosen as the way to work for scientific reasons; instead, it was partly driven by the goal of increasing consumption
The importance of taking a breather
Because our bodies were designed to work in rhythms, not for endless hours on end, breaks are often just as important as the work we do.
Research discussed in the landmark book Creativity and the Mind showed that regular breaks significantly enhance problem-solving skills, partly by making it easier for you to go through your memories to find clues.
Focusing only on your work for four or five hours straight limits your chances to make new, insightful neural connections, which won’t help you when you need to be creative.
The important thing to remember is it’s not about the amount of hours you work, but what you do in those hours that counts.