How Hard Should You Work? | Scott H Young - Deepstash

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The role of effort

The role of effort

For most types of work you can increase your productivity by increasing the intensity of your work. No more watercooler chats or lingering over emails.

Some productivity systems admit that we can get more done within the same time. But scheduling every moment of your working day takes extra effort.

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Why we struggle to work hard enough

Incentives: If you're paid hourly, then the expectation is that you will work for a certain amount of time. Nobody pays you directly for working harder within the same time. Working harder often simply means raised expectations.

Incentives may explain laziness but are seldom the only factor. Students use inefficient methods, even if it will cause them to suffer. Freelancers and entrepreneurs may procrastinate, even though lowered productivity directly impacts their income.

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Working harder is not our default position

Our default position is not to work particularly hard. Farming societies overcame this default with cultural exhortations to work harder and social norms about when to work and rest. Also, the relative poverty of pre-industrial people ensured an incentive to work hard. If you didn't, you had nothing to eat.

In our more recent affluence, we tend to work less intensively than we should, even if we could reap more rewards for hard work.

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Strategies to increase effort

  • A compelling reason to be productive can increase the intensity. Big ambitions can also inspire greater productivity. It is one reason why we should set big goals.
  • Working harder in bursts. Cycles of productivity are natural. If we recognise the existence of energy cycles, we can use them by relaxing in the slower phases.
  • Working on systems can make effort easier. We can make tasks easier by limiting alternatives. Reading books on your phone is much easier if you don't have Instagram next to it.

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