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Time Spent Does Not Equal Productivity

Time Spent Does Not Equal Productivity

AJ Keller
By AJ Keller on September 8, 2023
Time Management

If there’s one thing our work-obsessed culture loves, it’s quantifying productivity with the metric of time.

It feels like every other day there’s a new guru who gives us figures like “10,000 hours” for mastering a new skill.

Constantly hearing from teachers that if I “put more hours” into my work, I’d yield better results turned out to be misguided counsel.

It was exactly this type of guidance that led me to think that dedicating a grueling 8-hour stretch to a project would not only would not only help me complete it, but give me the best outcome.

Our time is treated not like the miracle it is (I mean, let’s face it — we only have one life here on earth) but rather as a resource solely dedicated to boosting our productivity. The existence of “hourly” work or the requirement to log “billed hours” regardless of actual productivity is a clear reflection of this perspective.

The expression which refers to milking the clock at work

This kind of thinking has fueled the pushback against Work From Home (WFH) jobs too — with older middle managers under the mistaken assumption that the longer we stay in the office or at our desks, the more we’ve accomplished.

But there’s something the productive people aren’t telling you: not all hours are created equal.

The traditional 9-to-5 workday has long been the norm in many industries. Employees are expected to put in eight hours a day, regardless of their actual productivity during that time. This mindset assumes that everyone operates at peak efficiency throughout the entire workday, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s evident that the time spent on a task is a poor gauge of productivity, yet our work culture remains fixated on it. There’s often pressure to demonstrate productivity by working long hours or attending to emails beyond regular work hours.

In reality, an hour of deep, focused work can produce significantly superior outcomes compared to several hours spent grinding through tasks when we’re not at our peak performance.

Surveys have shown that the average worker is productive for only about three hours a day. The rest of the time is often filled with distractions, meetings, and administrative tasks that don’t directly contribute to meaningful progress. So, why persist with a system that values time over output?

Deep work

Deep work, a term coined by productivity expert Cal Newport, refers to the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s during these periods of deep work that our brains operate at their highest capacity, and we achieve peak productivity. A few hours of deep, focused work can accomplish more than an entire day of scattered attention and interruptions.

When we immerse ourselves in deep work, we tap into a state of flow where we are fully engaged with the task at hand. This level of concentration allows us to produce high-quality work, solve complex problems, and make significant progress towards our goals.

From Fatigue to Flow

Sure, some meetings can be written off as unnecessary time filler (hello, this meeting could have been an email!) but that’s not always the case. Some meetings like morning stand-ups or check-ins with managers are necessary.

But it’s no fun when you spend all morning in meetings, and then struggle to achieve deep work in the afternoon.

At Neurosity, we’re fortunate enough to base our productivity off our output, and we’ve moved away from the drudgery of hourly time, into what we call Focused Blocks of Time (FBOTs).

These FBOTs are the hours in the day when we’re in peak performance.

How can we tell when our personal best FBOTs are? By using the Crown.

The Crown and Deep Work

Our primary focus at Neurosity revolves around one powerful concept: the Flow State. We understand that achieving this state of heightened concentration and peak performance is not only valuable but can also be a transformative experience.

That’s why we’ve made it our mission to provide the tools and technologies necessary to cultivate and optimize this state of mind.

With its data-driven analytics, the Crown gives you real-time neurofeedback on how much you’ve managed to focus on any particular task.

And while the Crown helps you figure out your most productive hours and helps you get into the flow state, it also does something equally important: gives your brain a break.

How to find your personal FBOTs

Ask yourself this very important question: are you an early bird or a night owl?

This will help you to distinguish which hours of the day are most productive for you.

Then, start keeping a journal of your work hours.

Write down the times you have worked, and how much work you managed to get done.

After a week or two, you’ll notice a pattern.

Identify the times when you consistently felt in the zone and were able to achieve a high level of productivity. These are likely your FBOTs.

Continuously assess and fine-tune your schedule. Be open to adjusting your FBOTs if you notice changes in your energy levels or productivity patterns. Your FBOTs may vary depending on your lifestyle, sleep patterns, and other factors.

Finding your Personal Flow-Optimized Time Blocks takes time and self-awareness, but once you identify them, you can significantly enhance your productivity and achieve better results in your work.

And there it is…

If there’s one thing you’ve taken away from this article (besides learning what the heck an FBOT is) — it’s that you can’t borrow time from tomorrow.

There’s simply no use slow-burning yourself out, only to find you have even more work to do.

Get with the flow.


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