I am reading “The 4-Hour Workweek*” by Timothy Ferriss and I’m struck by a new way to work.
As a teenager I wasn’t allowed to go out on Saturdays until I had vacuumed the house. I lost many Saturdays, doing all I could to avoid doing the work. In college I stopped being lazy and started knuckling down and completing work. But (believe it or not) doing dishes sometimes seemed more interested than debugging code. In my office jobs since then I cut back procrastination even more. I tackled my to-do list; even if a task was boring or difficult I wasted no time mucking about. I was efficient and organised and I got work done.
Reading this book, I see there is an even better way to get work done. I was efficient but now I am concentrating on being effective. Efficiency meant I did work quickly without wasting time. Effectiveness cuts out unproductive work, or work that doesn’t bring high enough yields. So less work is done – but it is done and gives results. And setting extreme deadlines helps focus the work.
This is not about watching less TV to make more time. It’s about using the time differently when you’re already working, by dropping the activities that are making you busy instead of bringing you closer to your goals.
Instead of planning, writing to-do lists, “researching” on the web I get stuck in and start doing the work that will give me the biggest targeted results. This week I am experimenting with incredibly short deadlines (15-30 minutes) to get work done that clearly takes me closer to my goal. It feels good to have something concrete finished.
Here are my favourite tips that you can apply today, totally oversimplified. I do recommend reading the book for background, more details and plans.
Pick one and just try it.
- In every task you do, consider if it will sling you like a rocket towards your goals, or just nudge you. Drop the stuff that nudges.
- Apologise later rather than ask permission. If what you’re considering doing is fixable, give it a try.
- Set incredibly short time limits and force yourself to get it done. If you make it, great. If you finish early, fantastic! If you only get halfway there or take twice as long, you still got work done.