Our journey to Financial Independence

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The Productivity Myth – Less is More

Do more in less time! Every minute must have a purpose. There is no other option, you must hustle and you must be productive. Productivity has become the end and be all of our cultures. 

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Whether it’s at work or in our free time we are pressured into consistently hustling and being productive. Yet, this advice misses the mark. We don’t get the most done by hustling for the longest; on the contrary, watching a movie or going for a drink won’t set you back years.  Most importantly take the time to sleep. 

Let’s take the time to see how much you really get out of constant hustling and most especially what does the constant pursuit of more cost?

What is productivity?

Let’s go straight to the source and see what the Cambridge Dictionary tells us:

Productivity is the rate at which a person, company, or country does useful work.

Cambridge Dictionary

Quite straight forward isn’t it! You put the effort in and yield the rewards. Yet at no moment in this definition is working hours, grinding, or hustle mentioned. With this in mind… the question comes? Why do we think that to produce useful work – we need to be at it constantly. Surely 1 hour spent in a state of flow yields better results than 4 hours multitasking and hustling?

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The correlation of productivity to hours worked can be calculated by GDP per capita divided by hours worked. Within the top 10 countries, only 3 worked over 1600hours in 2019. Whereas the top 4 all were more productive per hour worked as well as being some of the happiest countries on earth. 

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Society has built a cult to productivity on an erroneous basis. So much so that nowadays Americans sleep 6.5 hours on average. As we know lack of sleep leads to a mountain of problems in the long run from an increase in illnesses and a challenge in focusing. Sounds like the epitome of counterproductivity doesn’t it?

What does it mean?

We have been led to believe hard work and hustle are a badge of honor. Nothing matters more than long hours! How often do I hear “I can rest when I die”. But when it comes to producing results and growing, less is most definitely more. 

It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.

Nathan W Morris

Hustling might lead to success in the short term. I’m more interested in the marathon and succeeding in the long term. For that rest is not only important it’s necessary. By taking the time to regenerate we maintain our mental health and rebuild our focus. When we look for a job after remuneration work-life balance is often at the top of the list. It begs the question, why don’t we seek it in our personal life?

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Our working addiction can be cured and there are ways to make rest feel productive. I know firsthand how difficult it is to rest. The constant thought of “you should be doing something useful” nagging at the back of my mind. Society has shaped me to almost feel culpable about doing nothing. 

The Pillars of productive resting

There is no doubt that feeling your best is what will yield the best results. Any illusion that it’s possible to be consistent performant comes from survivorship bias. I address this in detail in my article “How Survivorship Bias Affects Your Decisions”. What are the different tools to restore your mind?

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Peace and Quiet: Meditation is a game-changer for me. All it takes is 10 minutes a day, truly enjoying the silence and drawing away from my daily struggles. It isn’t the end of all. It’s merely a tool that helps you control your emotional response and thoughts.

Sleep is magical: Sleep isn’t an option… It’s an obligation we owe it to our body. Statistics say we need anywhere between 7 and 9 hours a night. Sticking to a healthy sleep schedule and valuing your sleep will lead to a lower need for caffeine and higher productivity.

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Make Life Fun: Play is mistaken as being beholden for children. Playing is simply taking the time to enjoy yourself. When we get lost in the hustle of life we often forget hobbies and enjoyment. Whether it’s picking up a guitar or playing a video game. It might not feel productive at the moment but is a great outlet for stress.

A healthy mind in a healthy body: It doesn’t mean lifting weights every day or running marathons weekly. It is the idea of exerting yourself not only mentally but physically. Whether it’s as small as a brisk walk or a proper session of exercise. The best way for me to kickstart my creative juice is to go for a walk. 

Don’t work hard but work smart

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As time goes I believe I have found a balance between resting and working. It all started with building my sleep routine. The rest of my life is built around it. I’ve set ambitious objectives from performing at work, to exercising 3 times a week and posting on my website regularly. None of this has come at the expense of my social life. 

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

Steven Covey

It all starts by understanding what triggers you and what times of the day are your most productive. I personally work best in the early morning. Which means that when the need for extra work arises… I wake up earlier and get down to it! Does that mean I slept less last night? Absolutely not, I’ve padded my sleep schedule with a couple of hours. It gives me the time to enjoy my book every evening and if I have some leeway for social or professional commitments. 

Please share how you approach productivity and rest! What are your beliefs and how do you apply them?


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1 Comment

  1. I agree that working long hours isn’t a good idea. I worked a job that required long hours for most people doing the job, I just refused to do that. And I succeeded pretty wildly in spite of that. Partly because nobody was tracking my hours and partly because I was that good, but I think I proved to myself, at least, that long hours are not generally necessary to produce high quantities of high quality work. I would say though that tracking per capita GDP versus hours works doesn’t tell you anything. Correlation is not causation, there are thousands of stark differences between each country on that list that might have much more impact than the hours worked. Most of the great movers and shakers in this world have worked crazy long hours and sacrificed relationships to achieve greatness. But for most of us, that’s simply not worth the price.

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