There is this idea that working long hours shows that you are productive. I still have to understand why people think like that. I never experienced being productive after a long day. I remember getting bored and tired. But productive? Nope.
Let’s face it: I’m lazy. Some people think I’m a good worker and I actually work a lot, but trust me, I will do everything in my power to do nothing and watch stupid shows like The Walking Dead on TV or go out to have a beer. I really feel bad about it. But, that being said I worry a lot about it too. And I can’t really relax when I know I have something to do. It drives me nuts. So I keep doing stuff. And since I want to maximize my relaxing time, I just do things fast (and drink a lot of coffee).
It took me forever to do stuff before because:
- I was waiting for someone to tell me what to do,
- I was letting people interrupt me,
- I was trying to multitask,
- I was trying to find the perfect solution,
- I was waiting for someone to approve of the way I was handling situations…
Now I just do stuff and yes I’m scared of being wrong or going too fast but generally everything is ok. And I spend less time correcting what I did wrong than actually trying to make it perfect in the first place.
Focus intensely for a short period of time
I get tired or unfocused really quickly. Generally one hour (or maybe one hour and a half) is my maximum concentration time. After that I need to do something else: have a walk, talk to some one about random stuff, listen to some music, etc… So I plan one hour to work on something really specific and that’s it. I even try to write blog posts like this one in less than 15 minutes,which leaves me 45 minutes of the hour I planned for to have nap (I told you I was lazy).
Working in small chunks of intensive focus really gets the best of what you can give. Think of a what you worked on today. Why did it take so long? Where you waiting for something or interrupted or anything else? Did you spend more time on meaningful work than anything else? I couldn’t concentrate this morning because for some reasons my phone kept ringing. i could have ignored it but no, i thought it was more clever to answer it. I lost hours, just because I was interrupted.
I was helping a colleague to put an Ikea filing cabinet together yesterday. The whole work did not take long, but we spent time talking and looking for the right screwdriver or where the hell was the hammer. I spent 30 minutes alone and got more done than I did in the 2 hours before. Just because I was alone in an office with no computer, no phone, nobody… nothing to distract me. After that he came back, helped for 10 minutes (because that was the kind of stuff where you need to have 3 hands). It was done, not perfect, but done (you know, this mysterious little screw that is always left behind when you think everything is done… we just put it into the garbage). We were tired so we got out and had a beer. Done!
I experimented with this last summer. I worked half of the time I was working before and I got the same amount of work done. Because I was stressing about the stuff I had to do, but also I really wanted to go out of the office and enjoy the weather. So everything went faster (and honestly I even think I could have been faster than that). I hope my boss is not reading this. Just kidding, he’s already aware of it.
So the bad news is if you work for long hours it’s probably because you are slow. The good news is: it’s easy to go faster. Just put a timer next to you and imagine you are Jack Bauer. That’s what I do, I know it’s stupid… but guess what? who is having a nap now?
What kind of stuff do you do faster than before now? And why?