What do the most successful people do at work?

9781101620298_WhattheMostS_ES_300My next ebook, on What the Most Successful People Do at Work, will be out next Tuesday (see Amazon and BN.com to pre-order; it will also be available for Apple devices and as an audio book).

This short book was probably my favorite of the trilogy to write (for more on the trilogy, please click here). It was also the most difficult. I faced two challenges, which are inherent in writing about people’s workdays.

First, people’s jobs vary a great deal. Many productivity tomes assume a corporate environment, but not everyone works that way. Indeed, a lot of people don’t. Typical advice on inboxes and meetings is less relevant for, say, teachers or retail store managers or independent artists. I wanted to write a career book that a broad section of people would find helpful. 

Second, many people’s jobs aren’t that interesting to describe. I don’t mean that they aren’t important and socially beneficial, I just mean that the actions people are doing between 9 and 5 don’t lend themselves to a colorful manuscript. So this was another reason to seek out diverse folks who aren’t in meetings during the entirety of their working days. It took a lot of hunting to find people with unique jobs whose daily practices are relevant for all of us, but I hope I succeeded. Next Tuesday, you can let me know.

My key take-away from interviewing highly productive people is that work hours are more limited than they seem. If you work 40 hours a week, that’s around 2000 a year. If you work 60 hours a week, that’s around 3000, and almost no one works more than that (see p.45 in the June 2011 Monthly Labor Review for a discussion of overestimated workweeks). So 2000-3000 hours is your annual time budget. You want to make sure you invest those hours, rather than simply spend them, so that each hour counts more. Hours can generate returns, just like stocks.

In the ebook, I discuss seven daily disciplines that can make each hour count more. All of these are a work in progress for me, though I certainly learned a lot while writing the book. I’m much more conscious of taking deliberate breaks when my energy ebbs. I’m starting to plan my weeks and my editorial calendar more formally, and while I used to view blogging as kind of a hobby, I’ve realized that it may be the most productive thing I do all day. It’s practice, which, over time, will hopefully improve my writing skills. It’s a way of putting my ideas out there so they can speak for me when I’m not around, and it’s a way of building community. That’s a lot of payoff per hour invested. 

I’ll be writing more on these topics over the next few weeks, and will be discussing each of the disciplines, one at a time, for the seven weeks after launch. I’d be thrilled if you’d join me in this journey of building the careers we want in the time we have.


14 thoughts on “What do the most successful people do at work?

  1. Excellent! I’m excited about this book, especially given what you say about not assuming a corporate environment. As a freelancing work-at-home mom, I work in an environment that’s about as uncorporate (hm, I almost wrote “uncooperative”) as it gets.

    1. @Rachael – thanks, I hope you find it useful! That was really my guideline while writing this book — if I’m not a corporate vice president, would I still find this book worth reading? I hope people will think I succeeded on that front.

  2. What struck me about this book is that you really should (and could) write a full-sized book on productivity. Something like Nurtureshock, but about productivity-rearing instead of child-rearing. We’ll have more in our full length review of the e-book if we ever get a chance to turn the review outline into paragraphs. (That lull of waiting for people to get back to me last week turned into a flood of people getting back to me and now I’m swamped with work + end of the semester stuff. I like being productive, but I prefer it steady and without short deadlines!)

    1. @NicoleandMaggie – productivity obviously does interest me. It’s a question of finding the right angle, and ideally some new data sources that would make a book worth writing. I’ve got a few feelers out on all those fronts…

      1. There’s a lot of literature/research that you don’t use in the book that you could bring together. For example, in the first chapter, you could be talking about “Flow” and how to get into that state. I don’t think you even need data (though obviously you can use the time logs and interviews you do etc. as illustrations). There’s also a lot of Boice stuff that the people you interview do but isn’t tied back to research and so on. (There’s also a “goal-setting” literature on how to attack a list that you don’t get into, but could.) You can also separate productivity and creativity and what fosters both.
        Like I said, I see something like Nurtureshock– a really nice easily readable summary of what we know up to this point. Instead of a whole book on habits or flow or etc., a chapter each. Instant best-seller, just like The Power of Habit or Willpower. Who doesn’t want to be more productive? And who wouldn’t rather read something that goes down easy than trying to wade through the more scholarly tomes that these experts write themselves. (Of course, people who are interested can go back and get that book on Flow or that book on writing etc.)

  3. Waiting for the book. When now days author try to fill book with words and lot of pages. Laura says in few,… Wonderful writing style…few words can make a lot of difference.

  4. I just preordered mine. I think it’ll be helpful as I jump into the freelance/consulting world from a very corporate environment. And heck, maybe it’ll help me organize my life as a *AHM as well 🙂

  5. I’m looking forward to it! As you may have seen from the novel of an email I sent you with my time logs, how to manage my time at work is something that definitely interests me.

    And… this isn’t related to this particular post, but I wanted to let you know that I never was able to subscribe to your posts in google reader, but I was in feedly. (Which then subscribed me in google reader, as they sync with each other.) Yay! I can finally tag your posts the way I’m used to!

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