Working Smarter

…as opposed to working harder.

Everybody talks about working harder everyday. Specially in the tech startup world, it’s kind of fashionable to work 14-hours days and boast about it on Twitter later.

As with business metrics, your work life should have its own metrics. In my opinion, the only metric that you can (should?) measure is how much actually gets done. It’s easy to spend a lot of time reading around the web and doing things that do not contribute anything to your actual work. This is probably the only metric that you should measure.

Working smarter is all about getting more done in small time. I believe the easiest way to do this is to respect your natural attention span.

I had read somewhere about a hard-working woodcutter. The woodcutter used to go in everyday into the woods and works non-stop cutting down tress with his saw. As he keeps cutting down trees, his saw gets more blunt as time passes. In effect, an additional tree takes more time to cut than the previous one. If only he took some time out after cutting a few trees to sharpen his saw, he might cut the same number of trees in lesser time.

You get the analogy above.

There is a service called Focus@Will. What this service does is play soothing music which you can listen to while working and scientific data backs that this improves concentration. I have been using this for the past few days. Apart from the music, the one thing that comes out is that every music session is times for 1 hour. Maybe this is the natural attention span! This indicates when to take a break, grab some coffee, stretch your legs or simply relax.

This is easier to say, but difficult to put into practice. Everyone is strapped for time all the while - it’s difficult to take breaks. One thing that I do is do the small tasks when I need a break - like replying to an email, calling up someone to follow up. The trick is to do task during the break that requires lesser attention than the rest of the day.

“Sharpening the Saw means preserving the greatest asset you have - YOU.”


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