Majority of us operate with a dangerous assumption: working less translates to a ‘gaunted’ productivity and VICE-VERSA.
We literally think working for longer hours necessarily translates to increased productivity. I have been ingrained in this faulty reasoning for the longest time ever. And given the fact I love to do a hundred different things at any given time, I have always fell into the unhealthy habit of not sleeping well.
I have obsessed about insane productivity, and the act of doing more with less for a long time, lately, I have taken this even more seriously by shadowing ‘productivity-doers’ like The Tim Ferris (He does so many things that I don’t even know the perfect job title for him); Cal Newport – A Computer Science Professor and a prodigious author; Atul Gawande – a surgeon, public health researcher, and a writer; gleaning everything I can about them.
I will write about 3 major ideas (bolden in subsequent texts) that have been helping me to do a gazillion things at the same time, and still get to sleep 8-9 hours at night.
In one of Cal Newport’s writings I got this productivity formula
Work Accomplished (a) = Time Spent (b) x Intensity (c)
Recently, I have been doing some experiments, where I intentionally reduce (b) while keeping (a) constant (or even increasing it). And I found that the Parkison’s law works like magic. Parkinson’s law dictates that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. This will of course work up to a point (there is always an inverted-U curve lurking around the corner) but so far my results as been amazing – I am very good at squandering time, and I squander a lot of it.
At this point, I think it wouldn’t be superfluous to quote one of my greatest philosopher – Seneca.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it”
While following through with my experiments, I have also found the Pareto Principle to be invaluable. Named after Vilfredo Federico Pareto an Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and philosopher.
Pareto Principle: “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”. This applies to virtually anything you can think of.
But in this case, it will be something like this: 80% of your productivity in a day comes from 20% of your activities. Or it could be interpreted as this: if you have 10 things on your to-do list, roughly speaking only 2 actions on your list will be responsible for more than 80% productivity impact on your job.
The lesson is simple but very hard to practice: Focus on the 2 (and if you can go away with it, and/or radical enough – flush the remaining 8 down the closest) and free up some time for some other activities, and here is a very simple diagnostic – the 2 are almost always the very boring tasks.
Cal Newport once said something I had to love to tatoo on my chest (if I had my way): For you to be insanely productive you have to embrace boredom. (Paraphrased)
Trust me he is right on that one.