So many professionals believe the more hours they put in and the later they stay at work, the more successful they’ll be.

But a study published in the Psychological Review conducted by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson proves that when it comes to your time spent in the office, quality trumps quantity.

Ericsson and his team evaluated a group of musicians to find out what the “excellent” players were doing differently, and discovered that they were working harder in shorter bursts of time.

chart-1051K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, Clemens Tesch-Romer/American Psychological Association, Inc.

For instance, violinists who practiced more deliberately, say for four hours, accomplished more than others who slaved away for seven hours. The best performers set goals for their practice sessions and required themselves to take breaks.

Looking at the chart, you can see that the best violin students practiced with greater intensity just before the lunch hour and then took a break before starting up again at 4 p.m. — whereas the other students practiced more steadily throughout the entire day.

The researchers found that successful people in other professions had similar habits:

“While completing a novel, famous authors tend to write only for four 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.”

Tim Ferriss gives similar advice in his New York Times bestseller, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” He stresses the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 law, which is that 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs. So stay focused, and you’ll do more in less time.

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Amiee Groth writes for Business Insider.

Image: Businessmen and visitors enjoy the good weather on the stairs under the Arche de la Defense in the financial district of la Defense near Paris. REUTERS/Charles Platiau