Hard work may pay off, but there's a big difference between tackling a difficult task and putting in a lot of hours. Cal Newport, assistant professor at Georgetown University, decided to look at the work habits of talented people and found that busier wasn't better. In fact, it was much worse than limited, focused work.
Cal analysed a study from the Universität der Künste in Berlin that looked at the practice habits of violinists, his own behaviour and a few other sources to find patterns among talented people. Long hours wasn't one of them. In fact, that turned out to be a problem rather than a solution. Instead, focused work for about three to four hours made all the difference:
Whether you're a student or well along in your career, if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you're chronically stressed and up late working, you're doing something wrong. You're the average players from the Universität der Künste — not the elite. You've built a life around hard to do work, not hard work. The solution suggested by this research, as well as my own, is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you're done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day.
Putting that advice into practice may be easier said than done. If you have the ability to focus for a good chunk of time and not waste your day trying to do everything on your list, however, research will back you up.