I’m writing this post in response to something I heard today morning in an episode from the podcast Deep Questions with Cal Newport. In it he talks about fixed-schedule productivity, something he’s been practicing daily to do large amount of work in a short number of hours. The concept is simple – when you fix your daily working hours and stick to the fixed limit, you end up approaching your daily tasks so to fit them in your fixed time frame. Kind of like the reserve Parkinson’s Law.
Looks like I’ve been practicing my own version of this productivity hack. I call it “Goldilocks working hours.” It goes like this:
For distraction-free (deep) work, there exists an optimum number of working hours that is not too large or too small.
If you reserve too many waking hours for working, it’ll be easy to add deliberate interruptions thinking there’s a lot of time for work. The flip-side is that if you keep too less hours for working, it’s easy to get into a I-might-not-be-able-to-reasonably-do-meaningful-work mindset that will eventually lead to wasting all time on leisure activities. If I cannot do my “work” work, I better at least enjoy a bit. Enjoying a bit may in due course become a bad habit that’s difficult to get rid.
My theory is that just the right number of hours forces you to use your time more judiciously. For example, fixed 6-7 hrs for my full-time job works well for me. That way I’m able to keep more spare time in early mornings and evenings which I can then spend on working out, reading books, and family time.
The same applies to time reserved for side hustles (a software project, a book idea, etc.). My side hustle time is usually 1 to 1.5 hrs daily. It helps me build consistency and keeps me motivated.
How do you approach your work?