Work Smarter, Not Harder (The Ultimate Producitivy Hack)
On Sunday afternoon I went to a friend’s place to watch some movies and have dinner. We casually began talking about productivity at work and he told me he was a little bit tired because he was working every day for 11 hours. At first, I felt kind of shocked because for me 11 hours a day is a lot but then I began to reflect on myself and I realized that I was too working 10 to 12 hours a day between my school projects and responsibilities, Inerize, reading and so on. And I was feeling proud… Kind of like: “everyone is slacking off while I’m hustling and working hard” and that made me feel better. It was good for my ego, so to speak.
As a culture, we value the man or the woman who works 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. We worship the overachiever, the hard-worker, the person who has no time to have fun because he is all the time working and making money. We see how Elon Musk works tirelessly and we think the guy is a walking God. We see in the movies how these business people work untiringly for a couple of weeks and, boom, they are successful. But that is not how it usually happens. If they had to told you how it really happened, you wouldn’t even buy the movie ticket.
You may feel good about yourself if you are doing this type of behavior of working your ass off all day, every day, but the problem with this is that is actually insidious – it is not sustainable, and it will be harmful in the long run.
This makes me remember about this really nice guy that went to my university, and he literally went from Monday to Monday to school to work and do homework. He went even on Saturdays and Sundays. And when I asked him what he was doing he sometimes told me he was working for a homework that was due 2 weeks from now.
How long do you think a person can last sticking to that kind of schedule? When you are working so hard, you are probably leaving very important aspects of your life unattended. You may not be going to the gym, eating healthy, meeting and having fun with friends, reading, learning, and improving, meditating, starting some hobbies, going out and meeting new people. Can you see how doing this will backfire in a few months or years?
I mean, you can maintain this lifestyle for short periods of time because sometimes your responsibilities and obligations overwhelm you and you are pressed to go all out and work every single hour of your day to get that thing done. You can do it… But it has to be temporary. And you should try to avoid it nevertheless.
But feeling good about yourself for working extra-hard and pushing yourself to the limit is a stupid notion. I’ve been there and will be in the future, but at least we need to start to become aware that it is not the best way to work and be productive. There are better ways.
How To Get Shit Done
If you really want to get shit done and at the same time have time to enjoy life you need to start working smarter, not harder, not longer. Let’s check out these well-known principles:
The first one is Pareto’s Law: It says that 20% of your results come from 80% efforts and the other 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. There are some things you are doing, some action you are taking, that is generating 80% of your results. If you invest in the stock market, 80% of your results are generated by 20% of your stocks. At work or when you study, 80% of your result are generated by the 20% that you are doing. Did you dig it? Are you getting it?
The second rule is called Parkinson’s Law and it goes like this: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. If you have to finish a report and you start 1 week before the due date, how long do you think it is going to take for you to finish the report? 7 days. And what if you decide to start the same report 1 day before? How long do you think the report is going to take you? 1 day. And the difference in quality will be almost unnoticeable.
This happens because when you have 7 days to finish a report you could be doing in 1, you will unconsciously know that and when you start doing the report, you will begin to wonder off and go to Facebook, or go to the kitchen and cook some food. You will distract yourself because you know you have time.
But when you have 1 day to finish a 3-day report, you are going to turn off your phone, lock your door and focus a 100% percent on the thing!
Pareto + Parkinson = Productivity Master
How does this relate with Pareto’s Law? Simple, when your time is constrained, you will naturally tend to do the activities that generate 80% of your results. Why? Because if you don’t, you fail.
If you set up a 14-hour workday, you will invent things to do to occupy the time available. You will do pointless stuff and you will probably say yes to everything. You will naturally do the activities that generate 20% of the results to fill the time available. But if you set up a 8 or 6 or 4 hour workday, you will manage to get the same shit done but in less time, because you are obliged to recognize those activities that generate 80% of your results and do those. Other pointless activities will tend to disappear.
Same with a project or a team meeting. If you meet every day for 2 hours, you will get the same thing done than if you just met two times a week for 30 minutes. Why? Because of Parkinson’s Law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
You don’t need an external condition to use this principle. You don’t need a due date that is imposed by a professor in a school or your boss at work. You just need be more intelligent when setting up your schedule.
Start having team meetings that last less than one hour or 30 minutes, start your reports closer to the due date. Finish work at 5pm every day. Decide that you are going to work for 8 hours and no more. Promise to yourself that you are not going to do any work-related activity after 5pm. I assure you, you will find a way to get everything done in those 8 hours.
Now, you will have to be intelligent with the free time. Don’t go watch 5 episodes of Stranger Things or House of Cards. Start meditating, reading, going to the gym, play the guitar. Be more intelligent with your free time too! Use your remaining time to grow yourself, don’t let it go to waste!
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