OPTIMIZING TIME: How To Work Smarter, Not Harder (Part 1/4)

How To Optimize Your Time [1]

Once upon a time, Elon Musk said something insane.

“Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you are doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.” —Elon Musk

This is an inspiring idea for robots. But it’s not realistic for humans.


Because humans get tired and lose focus.

John Nevison published a popular study called The Rule of 50. It found a productivity threshold when people work more than 50 hours in one week.

For every 50 hours worked, Nevison found only an average of 37 highly productive hours.

Even more fascinating, Nevison found a negative correlation between working more hours and being highly productive. When he studied people who worked 55 hours a week, Nevison discovered they only achieved 30 highly productive hours.

Even though they worked five extra hours they lost seven productive hours.

Personal experience bolsters this theory.

How many times do you scroll social media throughout your day?

When does this happen most?

You might start out strong, achieving a few highly productive hours. But during the early afternoon, and toward the end of the week, you lose focus and get distracted.

In his book, Free to Focus, Michael Hyatt makes the case that much of our productivity “wisdom” comes from industrial era thinking. Working longer hours makes sense when you’re talking about assembly lines and repetitive motion.

But in the digital age, many of us are “knowledge workers,” and our brains have a threshold.

We can only produce so many productive hours per week.


Are you an overachiever?

Continue to next part: Optimizing Time (Part 2)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4