The average employee does somewhere between 1.5 to 5 hours af actual work per day, depending on whose survey you trust. Let's say people do three hours of actual focused work. That's sixty hours of actual work per month.
If you're in a boring job and you're content to dick around and waste time, that's fine. But if your future actually depends on your output, you need to do better.
For the past six weeks I've averaged over ten hours a day of quality work, seven days a week. This is the longest period of time I've sustained this high a level of productivity, and I've found that the method of achieving it is extremely simple. Here's my method.
1. Clear every possible distraction.
Put your cell phone into airplane mode and put it behind you somewhere, out of reach. Close your email program, IM program, and anything else that can possibly give you a notification.
Remove everything from your field of vision that is not work related, except for a glass of water or tea. That means that all non-work windows on your laptop should be closed, and that there shouldn't be anything on your desk.
If you want to listen to music, put on classical.
2. Plan Properly
Make a list of work that should take you about 20 hours to do. I've found that one of the biggest things that derails me is trying to figure out what I should do next. I end up surfing around my project trying to find little things to tweak. Instead, spend fifteen or twenty minutes outlining everything you can think of that could be done. Ten hours isn't enough, because you will be working very efficiently and will probably get way more done than you're expecting.
Eat one meal right before working. You'll need to eat another meal during the ten hours, so prepare it beforehand. This might sound stupid, but I'm always amazed at how much time it takes for me to figure out what to eat, go buy it or prepare it, consume it, and then clean up. Now I try to have a couple sandwiches ready and I eat them while I work. When I'm done I put the plate out of sight and keep working.
Work hard for ten hours. I actually think that ten hours is conservative and a low amount of time to work. There are many days where I work 12 or 14 hours. If you have a project that can benefit from lots of work and you aren't putting that work in, then you aren't actually serious about your project.
If you need a break, sit back, close your eyes, and think about your project. Or sit and listen to your classical music for a song or two. Or just be hardcore about things and push yourself to keep working.
When I take breaks, I do other work. I've been programming for seven hours now, so I took a break to write this post. In a minute I'm going to save it and get back to programming.
The more experience I build and the more work I actually put in, the more drawn I am to the conclusion that it's stupid to be anything but hard core about your work. Nothing is going to become a big success without a huge amount of work. Either put it in and give yourself a shot at success, or stop kidding yourself and go have fun. The middle route of working in a haphhazard fashion deprives you of any real chance at success as well as the chance to have fun.
Photo is a cool wall in Shanghai. I can never figure out what to use for the picture for posts like this.
I'm hoping to have SETT running on this blog within a month or so.
I'm sorry but I believe there's more to life than productivity.
"If you're in a boring job and you're content to dick around and waste time, that's fine. But if your future actually depends on your output, you need to do better." Tynan already answered that so please don't bring the morale down of the people who want to make something out of themselves. Thank you.
Hmm I have an on-going war with my productivity. It's challenging since I work from home and have a lot of flexibility on what I work on, but I am can also be constantly interrupted at any moment. I think on some subconscious level, I hate doing projects during my job hours just because of the possibility of disruption.
I also read this recently which was pretty enlightening:
She also recommends definitely having some outline plan of what you're going to do. And I noticed just having a numbered checklist of what to do every day really helps. No brain processing power needed to figure out, Should I do X or Y first?
Hey man thanks for that link. . I do music and magic and I have been trying to find an ideal work schedule to be highly productive( and actually making tangible changes) daily. I have been writing a progress journal of what works when i make my music and last week i started doing one for magic. . . one thing though is that the persistence in keeping up with this ish is tough . .glad to see some peeps out there who are successful writing about what I am going through somewhere where i am..
This post is really helpful and a good motivation for me and I shall show it to my friends and I know they will definitely agree!!
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Have you guys checked out the comment section of the http://atroundtable.com/blogging site. It's very interactive and very good to carry out a dialog
The premise of GTD is trying to keep a mental to-do list has such a high cognitive overhead it ruins productivity. They say, if you have an idea for another important thing to do, if it takes less than a couple minutes, do it immediately, otherwise capture it (write it down, voice record it, whatever your system) in your inbox and immediately get back on task.
Whenever I'm trying to focus on a project, I always have ideas for other stuff to do - offshoots of the work in front of me, or completely unrelated.
Does this happen to you? How do you deal with it? Do you quickly write down or voice record these thoughts for later investigation, or do you have the discipline to cast them aside, trusting that they will reappear if important?
If you haven't read Csikszentmihalyi (sp?) stuff on Flow, he's the eminent academic on this stuff. The Getting Things Done guys get it, too.
For me a huge part of it is simply caring about what I'm working on. I think most people in salaried jobs just frankly don't care that much about the work they're doing - they don't feel a strong imperative to get it done. For creative professionals (really, anyone not doing totally straightforward assembly-line work) the usual external incentives don't work (see Dan Pink's stuff on this.)
For me, something interesting I haven't really explored as much as I'd like is the idea of, uh, proximal voluntarism? That's a terrible name for it, but the fact is, EVERYTHING I do in life is "voluntary" in the sense that I could choose not to do it. I have ultimate control of my life in the sense that I can end it at any time, so everything I do is voluntary.
But everything doesn't FEEL voluntary. It doesn't feel like I'm making a voluntary choice when I go into work on a day when I'm in a terrible mood or really just want to go daydreaming. It's a consequence of a voluntary commitment I made, but it was a while ago.
If you frame day-to-day life as the fulfillment of a variety of ongoing commitments, and the occasional decision to accept a new commitment, then I think the sense that a commitment is voluntary fades - at least, for me it does - the further you get from the commitment point.
If it's something I'm still constantly thrilled about, then I guess it doesn't count, but for example a couple years into college, it felt like a totally oppressive burden, despite my constant conscious knowledge that it was a decision I'd made, and I could make the choice to leave. The weight of consistency, time invested, expectations of others, and my own personal fear and habituation combine to form what I'd call "inertia", the inertia that kept me there.
It certainly wasn't the degree, because I left without one - but I left after the appointed four years. Leaving earlier would have constituted an event. People would have asked why I was "dropping out." Leaving after the full four years but, uh, not actually having a degree, I'm not considered a dropout. But I also spent more of my time there than I wish I had. Inertia.
I think there's huge value in trying to structure my life in ways that keep those decision points close, so I am constantly reaffirming the choices and refreshing that sense that "Yes, this is a voluntary thing I am choosing every day to do."
Maybe some of that is just exercising the choice regularly to keep it fresh in my mind - Yes, I can do this, because I prove it to myself all the time.
I'm sitting at my desk in my RV. It's nice out, but the RV is in direct sunlight, so it's hot inside. The fan is on maximum speed, which cools me down a little bit at the cost of it being really loud. Two seconds ago I checked my email. I also checked my email ten seconds ago. Thirty seconds ago I thought about how I should make lunch, even though I've already eaten lunch. In other words, my mind is doing everything it can to avoid writing.
I'm not really in the mood to work, but I'm even less inclined to write. When my mind is in programming mode, I find it very difficult to switch from talking-to-computers mode to talking-to-humans mode. Last week, as you may have noticed, I didn't post anything. I slapped together a post, read it over, decided it was really crappy, and just skipped the week.
Now I'm writing, though, and I'll tell you why.
September 11th, 2012. Taipei, Taiwan. Dante Coffee in Guting. 8:34AM
My inbox. Oh, I don't really like that subject line. Well, click it --
I hate to push back yet again, but I can hardly get anything done right now. Let me finish UI + client project first.
Also, my concentration is complete shit. This money thing still fucks me up.
And then, epiphany strikes, the lights come on, the darkness recedes, and all is clear.