To be the best at what you do, 12-hour work days are key, right? Not even close, according to a new study that observed the practice habits of a group of violin students to determine what the "excellent" players were doing differently than the merely "good" ones. After charting their intensity, the researchers discovered that the best violinists worked more intensely—for shorter periods of time. Specifically, they tended to practice hard just before lunch, then take a break until 4pm; the less successful violinists practiced more steadily all day long.
Writing for Business Insider, Aimee Groth sums it up thusly: "The key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time. Then give yourself a break before getting back to work." And that doesn't just go for violinists. The researchers noted the same work habits among successful novelists, writing, "Famous authors tend to write only for 4 hours during the morning, leaving the rest of the day for rest and recuperation. Hence successful authors, who can control their work habits and are motivated to optimize their productivity, limit their most important intellectual activity to a fixed daily amount when working on projects requiring long periods of time to complete."