How I'm still determined to prove that "the grind" isn't the only way.
What rageth inside of me
July 2017. Disrupt Asia. I remember listening to a panelist saying that the only way to make an impact was to sacrifice your life and be ready to work 14 to 18 hours a day. "Why?" I wondered. Why do people think it's productive to work that many hours. I wondered how this could possibly be a good idea especially if it's your only job? If you've decided to jump into starting a company, how on earth would you think it's productive to be at it for anything more than 6 to 8 hours a day. I could understand being "always on" for the first few months of your venture. Ready to take phone calls during the weekend. Jumping in to fix servers going down at odd hours of the night. I totally get that. But being at work straight for 14 hours a day? Tommyrot I thought.
At the time I posted a video on Instagram. Boldy proclaiming that I'm going to do my main job at Buffer, do consultancy, AND build up a couple of brands on the side all in the time limit of 8 hours only on weekdays.
I kind of regret posting that video.
Not because it's impossible. Oh it's very possible. But about a month in, I was doing some reflection when I took stock of this claim. I realised that I didn't feel all that passionate about the end goals. All I wanted to do was to prove to people that you can get a LOT of shit done in 8 hours. Somehow I let that emotion dictate some ridiculous goals that I never wanted to do. I didn't want to build a consultancy business. I didn't want to build a brand. I don't want to try to be famous in any way.
So I stopped. I silently stopped posting to any FB or Instagram accounts. And I went back to my work.
Almost a year later I keep thinking of that.
A year later, there's still a dumb movement these days to celebrate 14 hour workdays all week long in order to "get things done". I know we don't need that time. Most of the things I want to do related to work get done in 4 hours each day.
The truth is, and I've witnessed this over and over again, people are incredibly wasteful of the time they need to use. I've worked in and been around environments where the primary use of time was to visit Facebook and other time sucks like Reddit. Or to get up and go have extended uncut watercooler chats with coworkers. I know. I've been that person too.
Basically, I'd see people use up 90% of a normal work day just faffing around, and then because there's work to complete, sticking around in office till 11 PM to get it done.
What a joke.
So when I see lots of people celebrating "THE GRIND" I keep feeling upset. Only a few of them genuinely need to work the hours they do. Add to this that I have never seen people I know celebrating the opposite. I want to do that: Celebrate a productive 8 hour day. And this feeling of celebrating the opposite was where my original goal came from. I thought building brands and making companies as "proof" was the way to go. It's only now that I feel like there are lots of other ways to do it. Which is where this idea comes in.
What is this road to 100% productivity?
A journey to achieving maximum productivity that I hope to share transparently as I go along. I want to share with people what I do with my 8 hours that I work each day. I want to prove what can be done.
My plan is to make stats public and over time figure out how I can make the full data public so someone can look at my work and know exactly how my day was broken down.
I want to inspire people to know that they can do so much more with so much less. That going to the office and having office space fun might be cool, but getting work done and flipping the bird to the grind is even cooler.
This is not going to be easy. Sustaining this kind of productivity at a stretch is asking for burnout if not done right. But 10 years of long distance running taught me that nearly anything is possible if you get there sensibly. I don't plan to get to 100% productivity overnight. What I do want is to be consistent. If my maximum sustainable productivity is 75%, then that's good as long as it doesn't drop. From there I'll work my way up. Even if it means clawing 1% at a time.
How do I measure productivity
Everyday I track my time using Toggl. I work a max of 8 hours a day on average. Some rare days I'll work 8.5 hours. Most days I work a little less. This does not include time taken to eat lunch on the days that I do; I have a strange diet, deal with it.
I'm right now breaking down how much time is actual productive work vs how much of it was spent faffing around. The time spent faffing around is added to my daily work time. At the end of the day, I take a look at the ratios and see how it turns out. On some days I'll compare my times against RescueTime to make sure I'm not biasing any data out.
My goal is to take these stats, and for now, dump it into a Google sheet and set up some charts which will act as a dashboard for now.
Some final caveats
Working only 8 hours a day is a privilege that I fully own. I have an amazing remote working job with Buffer. I work from home. I can work flexible hours. We reward getting shit done, not watching the clock. A lot of people don't have any of this. There are commutes in traffic. There are mandates around how much time you must work. And there are bosses who insist on holding meetings that ruin your whole day.
But I've been there. And I've been there while preparing for a baby to come into this world. I know what can be done in 1 hour after returning home (a lot). I also know how much I squeezed out of the couple of hours I spent travelling in the bus. Point is, I still didn't do crazy hours each day.
More to the point, this aims at people running their own businesses or working in early stage companies and thinking they need to work mad hours to keep up. This is also aimed at people who are doing ye average jobs and thinking they need to work extra hours to get things done. I want to show to them that this doesn't necessarily apply.
There are also some people like my friend Yudhanjaya who work, study, and write books at the same time. My personal opinion is that they might be burning candles at both ends but that's their choice. More importantly, they are definitely squeezing every ounce of productivity out of the time they use so my advice on "you can do what you want in less time" is moot.
Basically, none of this is to say that "working more than 8 hours a day is dumb". All this is doing is to prove that for a lot of people, 8 hours a day is enough to get everything you want done.
I want to celebrate people getting more done with less.