The Terror of the 40 Hour Work Week
So, I came out to Phuket in order to get back in shape. I enrolled in a fitness camp and did a meal plan and booked a room for a month. I have done about none of those things, but I have got a ton of work done as well as started to work on some side projects. I’ve been pretty productive even if my sleep schedule would make a doctor wince.
I was thinking about how my remote working situation has changed since I started this trip about a year ago. When I started I wasn’t working much at all because the internet in rural Sweden wasn’t very good, or it wasn’t where I was staying. Also the mobile was a pain/expensive to setup if you weren’t a Swedish citizen. In India I was working about 5ish hours a week over mobile 3g tethering. I’m going to write up a post on what types of internet I was using in each country, and where I got it.
Now I’m working more like 40 hours a week and it’s been a bit of an adjustment. I don’t do very well with a normal 8 hour workday. My working tends to be more in spurts then that. 12 hours one day, maybe just a few the next. I get on a roll and then go until I get out of the zone or get too tired to stay up. I’ve been told that this isn’t how most people work, but it’s always served me pretty well. It lends itself to having days scattered through the week that you don’t have to do a ton off work. Little mini days off help keep you sane. However I will say that if I’m working I tend to work more than 40 hours/week
I guess my point is that in our culture we have come to this shared delusion that all people work best in the exact same hours (9-5), and for the exact same amount of time (40 hours/week). People are a lot more complicated than that, and productivity/creativity is a lot more idiosyncratic to those people. I read once, and agree whole-heartedly, that motivation and creativity wax and wane. You shouldn’t feel the need to do mediocre work just because other people are. Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel the normal work week, and if your job doesn’t allow you to work in the way that you put out your best work then you might want to re-evaluate your working situation. Some of the best engineers I know put out a higher volume of higher quality work if they only work 30ish hours/week. This is heresy in an industry where 60+ hours/week is seen as pretty standard. Although that also isn’t an excuse to slack. If you miss deadlines or put out not much/low quality work then you have other issues.
Most people only work about that much anyways. They sit around, go to meetings, do email, and a cornucopia of other things that do nothing to drive quality or generate revenue for their respective employers. There was a time when I was in meetings for around 30 hours/week. I don’t really consider that work because it does nothing to push out product, or improve quality. I suppose you should take my hourly estimates with a grain of salt though because when I state those numbers I don’t generally include the previously stated activities. Although I will say that I generally prefer a quick Skype call to trying to hash things out over IM/chat. It generally takes a lot longer.
I’ve been ranting a bit, but I feel pretty strongly about this. I’ve been lucky that for the past several years I’ve had more flexibility with my work environments than most people. This has been a combination of luck, conscious choices, and having the pleasure of working with people that are way too good to be seen with the likes of me. Just remember that it’s more productive, and pleasurable, to structure your life around your work then the other way around.