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  1. Your articles are amazing. I read a lot of different blogs and your style is just plain clear and helpful. Thank you so much.

  2. Great article! I’m glad someone is writing about the real question.

    But this seems like really bad news for anyone who has a knowledge work job but is trying to do a serious creative project in their off hours. Any tips or insight or research about how to make that possible, when both the job and the personal project are mentally strenuous?

    • That is a great question and something highly relevant to a lot of people nowadays. Probably something I will make a post about.

      I know some who work on the creative project first thing in the morning and get up 1-2 hours earlier to make this happen. Working some on weekends is another option (although long-term can lead to burnout if it’s too strenuous).

      In general, there are three factors that you can manipulate to get more overall energy in the day, and that is what you need if you are doing a serious project besides a job:
      – optimize your physical health (a healthier brain can perform longer)
      – reduce energy inefficiencies, stressing and worrying while doing a job is wasting energy that could go towards work. Working on mental patterns helps with this.
      – take breaks, taking strategic and actually recharging breaks helps you to overall have more energy during the day as you recover some brain power throughout.

      Will post about these three things in detail.

  3. Great article! This is really making ne reflect on the high expectations we put on students to do mental work not only during school hours, but while studying and doing homework outside of it.

  4. I work as a consultant and my hourly rate is set by my experience. Being a little OCD I track my time with a stopwatch. My sweet spot seems to be around four hours per day billable but my colleagues are recording eight hours a day. Would I be dishonest to just double my hours since real time tracking doesn’t seem to be standard in my industry? I can guarantee I do as much work in a day as my colleagues.

    • That’s a really great question. I think that is a common issue with billable hours. What an individual can actually get done in an hour can vary so widely, and the more experience or focus someone has the less time they need for the same task. Of course experience also factors into the hourly rate… but ultimately I like to think of services as value based. You get a certain service and you need to decide if that is worth it the money you pay for it. How long it really took the service provider to do it, is in some ways not relevant to you. As long as both parties feel happy with what they got, it’s all good. This is also the reason why service providers often charge much higher “hourly fees” for large corporate clients. They tend to get much more value from it, so pricing goes up accordingly. There is just no perfect way to do this.

  5. This is the article I have been looking for all my life! I am the type that worries about not doing enough work each day. But what is enough? I have asked other people around me and they come up with incredible numbers that make me think I have been wasting my time all day, though I actually manage to do 3 hours of mentally demanding revision with active recall a day. Thank you so much!

    • Wow! I am so glad I could help you find an answer to this important question. Most people never really track their work so the answer will be what they “think” is the right number based on job requirements etc.

  6. I have worked in the same woodworking shop for 19yrs, and the previous one 8 years. Our office staff spend much of their day chatting, and doing every thing but their job, then when their part of a job is not done they cry foul as being too pressured. The wood shop is an open plan and most everyone is focused on their task. Yesm they may have ear buds in, and yes the younger ones often look at their phone, but only for quick looks. Part of the reason there is little talk has to do with the machinery both making noise and for the person who is using a machine not to be distracted. Some new hires do not understand shop etiquette and are abrupt in their movements, talk too much or spend too much time on their phone, which is not productive and does not equate in them learning the tasks they are there to learn. We, in the shop like to pressure them to find other employment. This does not mean that there is a negative vibe or hostile atmosphere. People take breaks, have something to eat, etc, but mostly they are on task. From what I have seen this is the norm for shop work environment. Shame so little gets done in the average office esp since they often get higher pay, and are more highly regarded by the business world.

    • Very interesting! Perhaps there is a more natural flow to working with your hands as well, seeing direct progress as you work can be very motivating as well. Maybe it is easier to get into the flow versus most of the office tasks that are perhaps a bit less natural to us humans.

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