I don't know if you noticed, but our work has become more complex over the years. We can describe everything that is happening with a single word – MORE.
We have to design, build, and deliver more products, services, features, and functionality; deliver those to more mediums, formats, people, countries, and languages; using different devices, environments, screen sizes, contexts, and form factors.
This is overwhelming. The nature of our work has grown exponentially. But unfortunately, our capacity to do this kind of work didn't grow exponentially.
It's common for many of us to push ourselves beyond the sane limits of daily productivity when doing less would have been more productive in the long run.
"We'd like to view the world as linear, which is, I'm gonna put in eight hours of work, I'm gonna get back eight hours of output, right? Doesn't work that way. Guy running the corner grocery store is working just as hard or harder than you and me. How much output is he getting?… Outputs are non-linear based on the quality of the work that you put in. The right way to work is like a lion." — Naval
Two years ago, you would laugh when I'd say that you can be as productive working from home as you can being in the office. And you'd think I'm crazy for saying that nearly every professional would be working from home in the near future.
The last year destroyed the myth that people needed to go to work in the office every day. Post-pandemic work has proved that nearly anyone can work from where they want and when they want.
Now, ask yourself honestly, of the 8 hours that you've worked in the office, how many hours are you really productive? How many hours are you actually focused on? Or think how many hours you've wasted in the doldrums on your 9-5 job, distracting yourself with the most common practice of these days – scrolling?
Nowadays, it is rare to come across someone resistant to temptation.
Why do we often fall into this trap? Is it because we consistently underestimate the amount of time we believe we will need to finish a task?
If this is the case, we may be tempted to feel that we can afford to spend part of our extra time on Facebook or discover which Disney princess we are. (I’m Aurora. You?)
Everyone who ever broke a bad habit knows that rather than deliberately repressing a craving, we should take steps to prevent it from being conceived in the first place. Rather than trying to force yourself to quit smoking, stop buying cigarettes.
Modern work culture is a remnant of the Industrial Age. It encourages long periods of steady, monotonous work unsuited for the Information Age.
Perhaps 8 hours were a commonality nearly a century ago when working was entirely manual, mainly industrial rather than creative.
However, eight hours seems absurd today, when most of the workforce is automated and primarily cognitive work.
Ironically, many people continue to work as much as 100 hours each week, most likely because they believe that more hours equals more work.
Our mental capacity is shamefully limited. Rather than pushing it to its limit, we'd be far more efficient if we used it in the shorter periods or sets of periods.
In today's competitive culture, engineers from Silicon Valley would describe people like Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and many more as lethargic and unambitious.
Darwin, who's one of the most influential scientists ever to grace this planet, whiled away most of his time walking and ruminating but also managed to write 19 books, including the revolutionary but highly controversial Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.
Instead of working for 16 hours each day, Charles spent most of his time contemplatively treading gardens and climbing mountains. He achieved all his glorious feats by working, as you might have guessed, only 4 hours every day. He worked for two 90-minute periods in the morning and then an additional hour later in the day.
These top achievers did not work hard but rather smart. They understood that exercising the mind for long periods was paradoxically inefficient. They worked when their energy was at its highest or when they believed their performance was at its peak.
Naturally, these peaks are mentally exacting and therefore cannot last, it seems, more than 90-120 minutes. All because the brain consumes the most energy (some sources claim that the brain consumes up to 25% of all energy, while some claim 40%).
I want you clearly understand that it's not about working only 3-4 hours per day and, one those hours are out, standing up from your desk and spending the rest of the day playing golf and drinking cocktails.
When you have control over your schedule, you should not have to maximize your time or optimize your day. Instead, it's about having 3 to 4 hours of focused, meaningful, impactful, and high-output work (ideally, when your energy levels are the highest).
The Lion's Framework
If you're trying to improve your productivity, shorten your work time and maximize the outputs of your work, below, you can find a few tips to get you started.
"You sprint, then you rest, you reassess, and then you try again. And what you end up doing is you build up a marathon of sprints." — Naval
Choose one thing to focus on in a day
Plan and prioritize your day based on its relevance and level of fulfillment. Instead of stumbling around doing random activities as you come across them, pick one thing you can be genuinely proud of achieving on any given day and make it a priority to complete it.
At the end of the day, ask yourself: "Will I be satisfied if this is the only thing I accomplish today?"
Be productive rather than busy
Productivity is the ability to complete tasks, whereas busyness is the ability to idle.
People who are constantly "busy" are essentially terrible time and energy managers. Productive people are the polar opposite; they can do a lot without becoming obsessed with it, which helps them to perform.
Automate and delegate
Anything that a computer can do should be automated. Anything that can be eliminated should be.
Outsourcing is the essential tool in your armory, and you need to make sure you're not wasting your time and energy on things you don't need to be doing.
Cut down micro-distractions
Ensure your deep work time is uninterrupted. Turn off notifications, put on noise-canceling headphones, lock yourself in a separate room (I do it on my balcony, which I transformed into a home office).
Notice what drains your energy
Address anything that particularly exhausts or annoys you first. Don't waste your morning on other people's requests that can wait until the afternoon.
Prioritize the thing you chose in Step 1, and don't start anything else until it's completed.
Focus on $10k tasks
If you haven't yet, identify your $10k tasks with high-leverage/high-skill. Those tasks are hard to uncover.
There's no swoosh sound when you complete it – zero dopamine. The results aren't seen for years, if not decades.
Find areas of work where you can make a high impact to improve your hourly output. When I found a way to earn 2x more money by doing the same amount of work, I chose to make the same but spend ½ of time on it.
Deep work is at the core of Lion's Framework.
"High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)"
— Dan Silvestre
Deep work brings purpose to my life. Shallow work depletes the meaning in my existence. However, we all have simple tasks to accomplish, such as tax returns, emails, meetings, doctor appointments, and so on.
Sometimes I wouldn't say I like the corporate world because of too much shallow work. I spend a lot of time reacting and making myself available. My attendance at some meetings is nothing more than saying "thanks everyone" at the end.
Deep work is of high value. It leads to tremendous results over time. But it's also hard to start. Why? Because deep work pushes your brain to its limits. It's the reason why flow states only happen when the work is slightly above your comfort level.
Another point to add is that deep work requires deep rest. The biggest challenge for me with deep work is that it's highly addictive. The results it produces are extraordinary, so it happens that I end up going from deep work to overworking. But that's for another article.