Experiment Log No. 14 — Working an eight-hour workday on my own work
The purpose of this experiment is to see whether I can, if I decide, work an eight-hour workday on my own projects, at home. I’ve done it for employers thousands of times, but I can never seem to harness a whole free day and put it to use furthering my own creative work.
The workday will be Sunday, January 13, 2013.
I will begin my workday at 9:00am and will be at work until 6:00pm.
I will take a one-hour lunch break and two 15-minute coffee breaks.
Except at breaks there will be no social media and no web browser usage except to look up something specific. There will be no NFL football on in the background. Ambient music is okay. My phone will be on silent, in another room. I may return texts and calls during my break.
When I realize I am daydreaming I will get back to the task at hand.
I will decide on what work items to do the day before. My regular Raptitude article will not be part of it. It will be done and scheduled by the end of Saturday.
The last half hour at the day will be spent answering these questions:
Did I start on time and finish on time?
Did I stretch my breaks?
No! My lunch break was exactly an hour, like I planned, but I had no desire to stretch it. I didn’t take my fifteen-minute coffee break in the morning. I was on a roll and really didn’t want to interrupt myself. I would have worked ten hours, or more. In fact as soon as I’m done this I’m going to do some writing, which I haven’t done all day. I feel really awesome right now and if I had tomorrow off my day job I’d do this again.
Did I spend non-negligible amounts of time distracting myself or daydreaming?
No, I didn’t. I did catch myself a few times daydreaming, but I really had very little desire to go on Facebook or Twitter all day. I think I learned that my impulse to click over to social media is mostly about avoiding the next thing I have to do. Today I felt really empowered because I was blowing through a large volume of work and there was really no other way I wanted to spend my time other than to continue what I was doing. The idea of quitting early seemed unattractive.
At one point I was curating some post ideas, and ended up running into an aphorism that would make a good Tweet. So I just tweeted it, and never checked my DMs or @ replies, never surfed my steam of other people’s tweets. It wasn’t even a temptation.
Surprisingly, at no point did I feel any resistance to doing the work. I wanted to be doing it. I got a lot of legwork behind me, and I’d love to have a lot more time to work on my own projects. I will definitely make it typical to devote one of my weekend days to a full workday like this.
The clear boundaries really did help. I never had to deliberate whether I’d done “enough for the day.” I just kept going. I also got started at a reasonable time. Often when I’ve designated a Saturday or Sunday a “working day”, without establishing a clear start time, I’d find 11 o’clock rolling around before I’d started. Then I’d tell myself I might as well have lunch before beginning, then it’s 1pm, and I’m ashamed enough at not having started that I will again distract myself from the thought of starting. Whole days have slipped by like this. The definite start time was totally necessary.
My work was mostly some long-overdue planning and organizing, and correspondence. I decided not to do any writing, which probably made it easier. Writing can be painful if what you’re working on isn’t clicking. None of the work made me want to stop working today, but writing could certainly be mentally grinding enough to do that.
Overall, the non-arbitrary start and stop times were obviously the key. Historically, whenever I don’t set them, then all I have is a vague idea to “get a lot done on Sunday”, and I never really did.
I can’t wait until I have more time off. I wish I’d done this at the beginning of my Christmas holidays. Looking forward to the most productive year ever.