Sunday, August 1, 2010

Side Effect Free Friday

What would you do if your life was completely unstructured? If you were able to put it together however you see fit, in whatever order you feel is best? I am also going to specify that you must have a job of some sort, as realistically most everyone needs a job.

Here is my optimal schedule, it is very simple. It is basically directed at the lone self employed worker.

Monday through Thursday
Do new work. This is the time for the act of creation, the filing of papers, the building of widgets, the finding of customers, the writing of code. Only definition is that it actually causes things to happen (has a side effect). This is the time you spend doing the things that most people call work. Do whatever you can to generate more value for your company. Do not spend too much time optimizing yourself away, or planning things far in the future, or worrying about whether the work you currently do is the best use of your time. Instead, just work. Pick a task that needs doing (you have a list of them right?), and do it. To make Friday easier, for every task, write down what you did, how long it took, what the side effect of doing the task was, and any other Notes. As an example "Filled my tax return : 14:00 to 17:00 on April 14 2010 : My taxes are now filled : I feel burned out". Keep doing this until Friday.

Improve the fashion in which you work. This is really imperative. If you do not take some time to actively think about the fashion in which you work, you will never improve at work. You should attempt to review all the work you did for the past Monday through Thursday, and ask yourself if there is a better (defined however you see fit) way for you to do some part of it. Look through the list of task you did. Remember how you felt before, during and after each task? Was there some tool you wish you had as you did the task? Did something seriously bother you as you did it? Ask yourself personal questions. Could I have done that work more quickly? With fewer errors? In a way that made me more happy? In a environment that I enjoyed more? Around people I respect? With something to look forward to later in the day? Anything. There are no bad ideas. If something comes to mind, it is probably at least somewhat important to you. This would be the time to learn new tools, to go to a related seminar, to re-structure your environment so that future work is easier, move your table so that you have a better view out the window, fix that noisy fan. A guitar creator might learn about a newly invented tool. A operations manager might review video feed to determine what makes employees happy. A programmer might restructure old code to make its intent and purpose more evident, so that future work with that code is easier. Remember that most work is as much a emotional as mental game. Be sure to spend as much time trying to make work pleasant as you do maximizing efficiency. 

I call it Side Effect Free Friday because it should have no immediate effect. Friday should not be spent "working". There should be no "side effect" to what you did. No outside entity should be able to see anything happening at your workplace. On Friday, you should not be generating revenue, clinching new customers, or anything of the sort. Friday is for reflection. In the same manner that you can think about your own thinking (which might be either meditation or philosophy, I am not really sure), you should spend Friday thinking about working. To be clear, not thinking "I should be working" but thinking "How can I improve my work". It is important that you set a specific time and place for this activity, as it is the activity that will pay the greatest dividends.

Consider, if you only improved the manner in which you work by .5% every Friday (a low number I would guess). By the time 40 weeks rolls around, your efficiency per unit hour would be close to 25% higher. At that time, you are already making up for the fact that you "take" every Friday off to think about work.

But the benefits are greater than that. You are also taking the time to make sure that you are current in your field. You are making yourself happier (which radiates to your family, friends, and others). For every Friday that you spend "side effect free" you make it such that actually going to work is a little less painful.  Reduced resistance to going to work will allow you to trudge through long projects or high workloads without burnout. Heck, no promises, but you may even like going to work.

Another effect is that it will allow you to more clearly figure out what it is that is making you unhappy. When there are too many painful stimuli, it can be difficult to differentiate one from another. You might think your stress is caused by a uncomfortable chair, or a flickering halogen, when in fact it is the client you are currently working with. If you had taken the Friday off and fixed the chair and halogen, you would know it was the client that is your problem!

Finally, Saturday and Sunday are your time. Don't work on them. They are for your projects, hobbies, family time, whatever. Life is long, but it is finite. Saturdays and Sundays are for defining yourself as a human being, for differentiating yourself from others.

This schedule is for the self-motivated worker, it would not work if you work on something for which you have no passion. It will not work for a great number of fields. Some fields are already so optimized that it is unlikely that giving Friday over to "self reflection" would lead to any gains. However, it works for me, and it just might work for you as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment