A big reason that I work seven days a week is to keep momentum going. I know that any day I take off will set me back not only the productivity I would have gotten on that one day, but also the additional time it takes me to catch up mentally to where I left off.
This is also the true danger of undisciplined web browsing, and the reason I've completely eliminated it during work time over the past three months. Stopping at a difficult point to relieve mental pressure by wasting time means that when I get back to work I need to do the work of catching up before I can actually solve the problem.
However, there's also a major benefit to taking these pauses, and it's exactly the same as the problem. Sometimes forgetting where you are can be a good thing.
My past couple days of work have been frustrating. I'm in the early stages of building a live theme editor, and was having a tremendously difficult time making an editing box that automatically highlighted syntax to make it easy to read. It's frustrating any time something doesn't work, but my eagerness to move on to the next step as well as the feeling that this just shouldn't be that hard made it doubly frustrating.
Yesterday Downtown Project Las Vegas was kind enough to put me up in one of their VIP crash pads. I spent some time checking out the amazing things they were doing downtown, but I also spent a lot of time in the crash pad trying to get the editor to work. Despite spending hours on the problem, I made only almost no progress.
Now I'm sitting at an empty poker table in Bellagio, waiting for a seat in a game, so I whipped out my laptop to hack away at SETT again. In my first ten minutes of work I figured out the thing that I spent hours on yesterday. Because I got some distance from the problem and forgot about the approach I was taking yesterday, I was able to take a fresh look and logically work my way to a new solution.
If I had worked in the morning I may have just kept spinning my wheels trying my old approach, but it's a good 16 hours since I last worked, so my temporary unfamiliarity with the problem worked to my benefit.
Of course, taking sixteen hours off from work here and there isn't a very good strategy. I aim for about 10 hours, from midnight to ten am. However, my new strategy is going to be to recognize when I'm spinning my wheels, and if I can't snap out of it, to tackle a different problem for a few hours, even if it's a low priority.
Hopefully this strategy will allow me to maintain a high rate of productivity without spending inefficiently butting my head against the wall. It's a way to work smarter while still working hard.
Photo is me sitting on the edge of a building in New York.