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FRESH FRIDAYS: Das ist sehr effizient

"Working hours: 9 am - 3pm, no checking voicemails or emails after hours, flexi working, work-life balance actively encouraged..."

Sounds appealing doesn't it? I imagine it also sounds rather utopian to the average London-based worker. Utopian, and presumably laden with a catch... Terrible pay? Surely this is part-time?

'What can you possibly achieve in that time?' I hear you all chime. But in fact, this idea of a shorter working day is increasingly popular in many European countries. In Sweden last month, Gothenburg City Council announced it was trialling a six hour working day on the premise that it will in fact improve efficiency. In Germany too, strict limits are placed on the number of hours you can work in a week; something which sounds alien and highly indulgent to the average UK worker desperate to impress their boss by their dedication to their desk.

The theory behind the move is that people are actually only efficient for a limited number of hours. Beyond that, productivity declines. Rather than spending time at work, they would argue that workers gain more from enjoying more leisure time to recuperate for their next day's work. OECD statistics for 2012 seem to back this up. In 2012, GDP per hour worked for Sweden was 54 USD and 58.3 USD in Germany. This compares to 42 for the UK, which also had the longest number of hours worked.

So, what can we learn from our Nordic and German neighbours?

Aside from enjoying more leisure time, it seems they have also mastered the art of efficiency. According to Guardian journalist Helen Pidd, 'they (the Germans) do seem to faff about rather less than we do. According to Statistics from the OECD, your average German works 256 fewer hours a year than their British counterpart and yet gets a lot more done. Plus while pretty much every other country in the western world was just trying not to go bust last year in the aftermath of the financial crisis, German labour productivity actually increased'.

Is it likely that Britain will suddenly follow suit and demand all workers finish at five on the dot?

My bet would be no. But it does highlight the correlation between efficiency and work/life balance. In fact, here at FreshMinds, despite the competitive job market, we're noticing a rise in candidates factoring in these requirements in to their job search.

It isn't clear exactly what the Germans and Scandinavians are doing differently (there's definitely a study to be done there!) but there are lots of ways we can try to increase our own personal efficiency on a daily basis. With this in mind, have a read of FreshMinds' top efficiency tips....

  • To-do. Task 1- write to-do list

A golden oldie, the to-do list, has kept many of us in check for years.  This has been reinvented in recent times and you can now organise your day with a touch of a button. Check out to-do lists apps such as Wunderlist, or for an all encompassing solution try device-syncing service Evernote.

  • The dreaded Ps

Procrastinating and perfection are underlying causes of much inefficiency. Look out for important tasks which have featured on your to-do list for a while, see if one of these Ps is the source of this problem and force yourself to get it finished!

  • Mono-tasking is the new black

In moments of panic, a long to-do list can often translate into trying to do everything at once. We think that 'mono-tasking' is the way forwards. The key is to prioritise effectively and allocate the right amount of time to see each task through to the bitter end.

  •  Food for thought

Prerna Gupta, Chief Product Officer of social music app Smule, has the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. She calls this 'reducing decision fatigue', it allows her to focus on bigger decisions that will have more of an impact on her daily output. Think of ways that you can put your brain on autopilot to bypass those day-to-day decisions that can really mount up.

  • Focus the mind

Cast your mind back to the days of silent exam rooms, remember how much writing you managed to scrawl across your paper? Try setting aside 30 minutes in a quiet room to knock out that presentation you’ve been putting off... rather than leaving it to 9pm the night before it’s due!