So… Week two of my productivity experiment. Turns out, not as easy or glamorous as week one. And though it might sound ridiculous, I actually struggled to keep up a shorter working schedule and felt a strong urge to fall back on my old habits. But more about that later.

First…

The Numbers

  • Monday: 4.5 hours
  • Tuesday: 1.5 hours (all over the place)
  • Wednesday: 3.5 hours
  • Thursday: 4 hours
  • Friday: 4 hours
  • Saturday: 2 hours

So a total of 19.5 hours of focused work. An uptick from last week, though Tuesday was a complete failure to stick to my commitment of doing it all in one sitting. But life got in the way, and that too has to be factored into any kind of experiment. 

The Work Results

Found two new clients. 

Organized a meetup for writers in Berlin. 

Published three articles on my blog, and one in-depth article on Patreon (in total: 3,000 words of polished writing). 

Got my company books in order by visiting a German accountant. 

Edited five samples for writers on Twitter, and around 10,000 words of writing for my existing clients.

All of that in 20 hours. It’s ridiculous and feels like cheating.

The only downside is that my own book got lost in the mix, and I didn’t work on it as much as I did last week. This happens to be the emerging theme of my current struggle: where to draw the line between work and pleasure?

Observations

  1. Non-work results are hard to ignore. I exercised, read two new books, and finished Spider-Man on PS4. I tried three new recipes from Jamie Oliver’s 5-ingredient cookbook. Cleared out our basement. Invited the old Herr Shultz for lunch, and—for the first time—had an actual conversation in German with him. And that’s because I found the time and the energy to batter my brain with the German version of the Harry Potter audiobook. I have ridiculous amounts of free time, and I don’t know what to do with it.
  2. Working on the weekend was a big mistake. Last Sunday, after a ridiculously good and productive week, I made the mistake of sitting down to work. I had the energy, wanted to do the work, so why not? The lack of a true day off resulted in a slog that lasted for another three days.
  3. What is work? (baby don’t hurt me) What’s the difference between writing or editing for money and doing it for pleasure? Is organizing a writing meetup business, or is it pleasure? What about writing my own book? Currently, I treat it like work, but is it the same kind of work that I do for my clients? Of course not. But how do I even begin to draw the line? 
  4. energy has limits. This experiment is making me painfully aware of the limits of my time and energy each day. Sure, I can delude myself by sitting at my computer all day, moving at a snail pace—as I did for the last six months—achieving little, but hey, at least I put the hours in. But where does that lead? The hard truth I need to face is this: if I only have 3-5 hours of focused no-bullshit productivity in me each day, I need to be smart about how I spend that time. It’s brutal because it’s not enough for all the things I want to do.
  5. work gets easier when you don’t have time. Organizing a meetup for people you’ve never met in a city you just moved to may look like a daunting task. Oh, I need to think up a cool name, reach out to the right people, maybe design a logo, then write some good encouraging copy, and… That’s all nonsense. Organizing a meetup took me maybe 40 minutes in total. A photo I snapped on my way from the store, the first description I could think of, and then just showing up. Six people came to yesterday’s event. We had a great time, and we’ll be meeting again next week. All it took was less than an hour.
  6. My brain doesn’t need my attention to solve problems. It really seems to do pretty well on its own. I gave up trying to learn German grammar and just started listening to Harry Potter. All of a sudden I understand what Germans are talking about, and I’m able to have a basic conversation, or tell the staff at the store that I broke a bottle of ketchup, and that I’m sorry. Goodbye, Google Translate. 
  7. Open loops drain energy. Leaving tasks unfinished, like that article I started writing but never finished, is a source of distraction second only to the internet.
  8. Big things happen faster. I know we’re used to big things requiring a lot of time and attention, but they don’t always do. Sometimes you can get big things done in minutes just by getting to it.
  9. life gets in the way. On Tuesday, my wife’s visit to the oncologist for an overdue checkup left me unfocused, distracted, and restless. All is fine, by the way, but the voices in the back of the head are hard to put to rest.
  10. Old habits die hard. Tuesday was the first big hurdle in my experiment. Instead of taking a day off, I noticed I was sort of vegging out in front of the laptop doing things of little value. It felt like work, but accomplished null. I need to avoid this kind of activity like the plague.
  11. Is creativity work? An open question. Is writing my book work? I hope to sell it, so I put the same effort I do into my other commercial projects, but is it really work? Or should I do it for fun and enjoyment? But what if it’s not good enough then? Plus, I work as an editor, so it’s not like I know how to write for fun anymore. Good writing needs to meet certain standards. 

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