Saturday, June 02, 2007

I not as lazy as I thought I was

I rarely feel I'm working hard enough (don't tell my employer), but I may have been choosing the wrong comparisons ...
Time Wasted? Perhaps It’s Well Spent - New York Times

... American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work, but describe 16 of those hours as “unproductive,” according to a study by Microsoft. America Online and, in turn, determined that workers actually work a total of three days a week, wasting the other two. And Steve Pavlina, whose Web site ( describes him as a “personal development expert” and who keeps incremental logs of how he spends each working day, urging others to do the same, finds that we actually work only about 1.5 hours a day. “The average full-time worker doesn’t even start doing real work until 11:00 a.m.,” he writes, “and begins to wind down around 3:30 p.m.”

The experts disagree on how we are wasting all this time. The AOL survey says time is lost to surfing the Internet (given the source, that is either self-congratulatory or self-incriminating).

The Microsoft survey pointed to worthless meetings. Respondents said they spent 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 71 percent of them thought that those meetings “aren’t productive.”

Searching through clutter is another diversion, says Peggy Duncan, a “personal productivity coach” in Atlanta, who maintains that rifling though messy desks wastes 1.5 hours a day...

... The average professional workweek has expanded steadily over the last 10 years, according to the Center for Work Life Policy, and logging 70-plus hours is now the norm at the top....

... We are wasting time because we are working harder.

“The longer you work, the less efficient you are,” said Bob Kustka, the founder of Fusion Factor, a productivity and time-management consulting firm in Norwell, Mass. He says workers are like athletes in that they are most efficient in concentrated bursts. Elite athletes “play a set of tennis, a down of football or an inning of baseball and have a pause in between,” he says. Working energy, like physical energy, “is best used in spurts where we work hard on a few focused activities and then take a brief respite,” he says...
Wow. I'm not as bad as I thought I was. It helps that I like my work, and circumstances limit me to a 50 hour week. My colleagues know not to invite me to pointless meetings, and the meetings I do attend are (really) educational or productive. If I could fit in 70 hours for my employer I would be wasting a lot more of the week, particularly given the effects of travel and sleep deprivation.

The 70 plus hour weeks I've seen over the years have been substantially social and recreational -- though the difficulties of modern air travel are making them nastier. The people who do it seem to enjoy the distraction from everyday life, but I don't think the time is well spent. The 70 hour crew are always sleep deprived and a bit manic, and they spend a lot of time recovering from their own mistaken decisions. A few people can be productive for 70 hours, but mostly it's counter-productive.

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