As week #1 of my productivity experiment (which you can read about here) draws to a close, I am equally baffled, excited, and terrified.

The goal of the experiment is to work only when you’re at peak productivity, and then, once you become distracted or restless, end for the day. Really end for the day. No one last email, no one last thing. End. Finito.

Numbers

My working hours this week

  • Monday: 4 hours
  • Tuesday: 3.5 hours
  • Wednesday: 1.5 hours
  • Thursday: 5.5 hours
  • Friday: 1 hour
  • Saturday: 2 hours

For a total of 17,5 hours of focused work.

Observations (In the Order I had Them)

  1. I’m working less. And faster. Gotta hurry before my energy runs out.
  2. I feel bad about it. Clocking in only a few hours each day doesn’t feel right. I’ve spent the last six months pulling 10-hours a day. This experiment feels so wrong. I spend the rest of my time each day reading books, going for a walk without any aim, listening to the German rendition of Harry Potter (und der Stein der Weisen) visiting the bookstore, or at one point just sitting in the park and enjoying how leaves rustle in the wind. I feel guilty.
  3. I’m getting the same amount of work done. More or less. It’s weird, but once you sit down to work like you’re possessed for a couple of hours—and you have to work like you’re possessed because you never know when you’ll run out of energy and focus—you get things done. One after the other. No procrastination, no bullshit. And there isn’t enough time to get everything done. It makes me rearrange tasks, prioritize differently
  4. My task list has to go. I’m a methodical man, and I like to have things in order. You should see my holiday photo albums. No duplicates, only good photos left, all neatly arranged according to year and place. I realized I was giving my task list too much attention. I need it to manage my tasks, not for my tasks to manage me. One day after I had this revelation, I cut down my elaborate project system to just one list. If the list gets too long, I probably won’t accomplish things on it anyway, so it’s best to cut early.
  5. Distraction is evil. I absolutely can’t check my phone in the morning, lest I get dragged into some online debates, or feel a constant nag at the back of my head that tells me to answer a client’s email. Not before I get the work done. It’s surprising how much you can get done when you turn off your phone and email and just focus on getting things done. By now, I’m convinced most modern workplaces could cut working hours to five or six if people didn’t spend so much time cyberslacking.
  6. What’s work, what’s fun? Is writing my book fun, or is it work? Is social media fun or work? Is writing a blog post fun, or is it work? For now, I don’t know. How do I tell one from the other? Where do I draw the line? How do I prioritize?
  7. What’s my job description? My priorities shift all the time, and I miss the good old corporate days when it was clear what needs to happen for me to have an income at the end of the month. Nowadays, it’s not. In the freelance world, work and income seem to appear as if by magic. 
  8. I love the momentum. Damn, but it feels good to work this way. Each morning feels energizing and fresh, and in just a few days, I started to look forward to waking up each morning, rather than wanting to sleep a bit longer. One day I got up around six, I couldn’t wait to get started.
  9. Personal life impacts my energy levels. Notice the two 1-hour-long working days? Something came up, had to take care of it. Didn’t feel like working afterward, so in the spirit of the experiment, I just closed the laptop. Not the best feeling in the world. I got behind on work.
  10. All the nonsense’s gone. In just seventeen hours, I managed to write a few thousand words of my novel, find two new customers, write four blog posts (publish two, but that’s a different story), and I organized a meetup for English-speaking writers in Berlin (it took place yesterday). How? It just happened. When you don’t have the time to think everything through, you just do. No obsessing about fine details. Things happen, for better or worse. 

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