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.