Four Hours of Work

“The real lesson – or one of them – is that it pays to use whatever freedom you do have over your schedule not to “maximise your time” or “optimise your day”, in some vague way, but specifically to ringfence three or four hours of undisturbed focus (ideally when your energy levels are highest). Stop assuming that the way to make progress on your most important projects is to work for longer…

…The other, arguably more important lesson isn’t so much a time management tactic as an internal psychological move: to give up demanding more of yourself than three or four hours of daily high-quality mental work. That’s an emphasis that gets missed, I think, in the current conversation about overwork and post-pandemic burnout. Yes, it’s true we live in a system that demands too much of us, leaves no time for rest, and makes many feel as though their survival depends on working impossible hours. But it’s also true that we’re increasingly the kind of people who don’t want to rest – who get antsy and anxious if we don’t feel we’re being productive. The usual result is that we push ourselves beyond the sane limits of daily activity, when doing less would have been more productive in the long run. “

-Oliver Burkeman, “The three-or-four-hours rule for getting creative work done.” April 3, 2021.

Frank Chimero · A Modest Guide to Productivity

“Dump your brain on to a sheet of paper—every single thing you could hope to do in the next 3 to 4 months. Then, look at your task list. Have the author sign each one. Did you write it, or was it fear, that nasty tyrant in your head? Cross off anything written out of fear. Listen: some drudgery is unavoidable, but you’re living your one and only life. You get to drive; no bullies at the wheel.”

—Frank Chimero. “A Modest Guide to Productivity.” April 23, 2018.

Love this whole piece.

Pay Yourself First

“Pay yourself first” has been financial wisdom for saving money for so long it is trite and cliché. But, it’s just as true for how we spend our time. If you are trying to start a new daily or weekly habit, start the day or week off by doing it. The feeling of accomplishment of completing some small piece of whatever you’d like to get done for yourself first, creates positive energy and momentum that carries over to everything you do. 

Just like with money, keep the time investment small enough that you still have time to do everything you need to do, but keep it large and consistent enough that, over the long haul, you get significant results.