Software Development, Web Design, Training

JazzCon Notes: How I Cut My Working Hours in Half and Somehow Managed to Get More Done, Jason Lengstorf

(Jason’s end-of-the-day keynote (did you know that was a thing?) was one of the best takeaways from JazzCon. His first-hand stories and experiences with being a workaholic, and the fallout that results was extremely easy to relate to, and struck a chord with many people in the audience, including myself. Whether you’re a software developer, marking rep, or in any other career that’s stressful and often comes with long, chaotic hours, you’ll get a lot of value from listening to what Jason has to say on this topic.)

Averaged 70+ hours/week at the computer.
Constantly “on”, leaving dinners to take calls w/ clients, etc.
Originally felt like a point of pride. “I’m so hard core, I hustle SO hard.”
Came to a head.
Black Friday project, with “rush fees”.
6 week project, started w/ sane schedule, then of course everything got rushed horribly bad.
You either HIT Black Friday, or you’ve missed the biggest shopping day of the year.
Worked 100+ hours/week, completely exhausted.
Missed Thanksgiving w/ his family, slept less than 4 hours a night, ate way too much fast food, health (and beard!) problems.

70 hours a week is too many hours.

Would rather be poor and healthy than successful and sick.

Cut back.
Only accepted calls during business hours.
Checked emails twice a day.
When with friends, left phone in the glove box.
etc.

Thought career would tank. But that’s not what happened.
Not a single client noticed. Still available 8am to 6pm.
Business GREW.
Started getting MORE done.
How?

Science —
If you’re working 60+ hours/week, actually LESS productive than working the standard 40 hour work week.
Henry Ford did studies, the 40 hour work week is “optimum”. People can sustain output at that rate.

When you work 60+ hours/week
You get an initial bump
THEN exhausted,
error rate goes up
actually burning time that you would never had to work, had you just worked a normal 40 hour week
On top of that, long hours TANK your passion
Hard to care about something if you do it ALL THE TIME.

Creativity suffers if you’re just working all the time.
Taking walks, real breaks = creativity and ability to solve problems goes up
That’s why “shower moments” are a real thing.
You’ve given your brain SPACE to roll over these problems you’ve been thinking of.

Multitasking is the band of work existence.

If you’re sleeping less than 7 hours/night, actually WORSE than going to work drunk.

How to get more work done in fewer hours —

Track your time
Time-boxing tasks
Front-load all important work
Prioritize Aggressively
DON’T MULTI-TASK

Track your time -
The Hawthorn Effect: the simple observation of something changes the outcome
Just being aware of what you do/eat/etc, tend to make better choices
Same thing happens w/ your time.
If a report says “i spent 12 hours on Twitter”, I probably won’t be on Twitter so much.
RescueTime — app that takes a record of what you’re working on, can categorize as “productive”, “not productive”, etc.
If working a long day, can correct for it by having a slower day later in the week, taking a weekend off, etc.
Stay on a pace you decide is healthy.

Time-boxing your tasks —
Set a date w/ a friend, “dinner at 5”. Means I have to leave by 4:45. Gives me “passive pressure” on myself to get things done w/ sane time boundaries.
Find your rhythm — how long do you want to focus for? (25 min, 90 min, etc)
Then turn off ALL other apps and just focus on that thing.
The timer will tell you when you’ll stop, so you can just focus on that thing.
When the timer goes off, take a break, go have lunch, etc.
ACTUALLY take that break, don’t just keep going for longer.
Keeps you from getting into “robot/programmer” mode and forgetting to be human.
Actually taking breaks will give you MORE time, without turning you into a zombie.
You’re in a place where you’re not distracted by other apps, you get into a “flow state”, get into the zone.
That zone is where we do our best work — we’re not distracted, able to focus.
Because we’re taking breaks, we’re also still available to check email, etc.
If you’re working for 90 minutes at a time, you’re not really “unavailable”.
If you work at a place where being unavailable for 90 minutes is an issue, you are a bottleneck — fix that asap!
"Ultradian Rhythm" research has some good ideas on this topic.

Front-load all important work —
“If you have to eat a plate of frogs, eat the biggest one first”.
Use your “good energy” to do the important things in your day FIRST.
Early in the day, energy and focus is higher.
Use that energy on things that are most important.
By afternoon, energy is lower, do email and admin tasks THEN, with lower energy at the end of the day.
Use good energy for the hard stuff.

Prioritize Aggressively —
“Multiple Priorities” means prioritizing nothing.
The Highlander Technique - there can be only one!
Start w/ a todo list, draw a tournament bracket.
“which of these 2 things will be LEAST likely to get me fired?”
cross it out, move on to the next 2
keep going until you have the 1 most important item. Do that first
With the remaining tasks, do the bracket again, that’s your 2nd task.

We LOVE to multitask
But it’s FATAL to productivity.
If you work on 1 task, you dedicate 100% of time to that project.
For every additional task, you lose 20% to just “context switching”, not even DOING anything.
Psychological trap - multi-tasking makes us FEEL productive.
If I can say “I made progress on everything”, touching every project feels good even when losing tons of time to context switching.
Accomplishes effectively nothing.

But when focusing and time-boxing, complete things are actually getting DONE by the end of the day, not just partially touching multiple things.

Very difficult to force to work that way, but significantly happier and more productive.

So how do we know this works?
2016 RescueTime report, shows how many hours/week are worked.
Can compare to 2017 hours in the same report.

Initially, felt like a “betrayal” of entrepreneur spirit. But it actually made him BETTER and more productive.

More creative, productive, happier, healthier when working a reasonable schedule.

Strategies that work —
time-tracking
time-box tasks to create urgency
front-load important tasks to first part of your day (whenever YOUR day starts — 11am, 6am, whatever)
aggressively prioritize your work - what’s the most important thing in your day?
NEVER MULTI-TASK and your life will be better.

We all have a choice. Which type of person do you want to be?

Jason can be found at lengstorf.com.