Output is Better

Happiness

You work hard. You know you work hard, your coworkers know you work hard, and your customers know you work hard. No one cares that you are working hard. What really matters is output. What have you gotten done? It has been shown through numerous studies that people will feel more value in a process that seems more difficult. People feel vacuums are more powerful if they are louder, cars are more powerful if the engine makes more noise, and that software must be really powerful if it took you more than a couple of 10 hour shifts to develop.

But the key to happiness is getting work done without so much effort. One of the things that is supposed to be a benefit of experience is things are supposed to get easier with age. Don’t fool yourself into believing that working harder is working better. What lessons have you learned that can make your job easier? If it is still taking you the same amount of time to do most of your tasks, you have to ask what you are doing wrong.

In this article by Oliver Burkeman, he says that “Nobody Cares How Hard You Work”.

Psychologists have long noticed what’s sometimes been called the “labor illusion:” when it comes to judging other people’s work, we might say we’re focused only on whether they did the job quickly and well—but really we want to feel they wore themselves out for us.

The behavioral economist Dan Ariely tells the story of a locksmith, who, as he got better at his work, started getting fewer tips, and more complaints about his prices. Each job took him so little time or effort that customers felt cheated—even though, pretty obviously, being super-fast is an asset in a locksmith, not a fault.

Each job took him so little time or effort that customers felt cheated.

In 2011, a study [pdf link] by the Harvard Business School researchers Ryan Buell and Michael Norton found that people using a flight-search website actually preferred to wait longer for search results—provided they could watch a detailed progress display to see the site “working hard” to canvas each airline’s database.

This would be no more than an intriguing quirk of consumer behavior—if it weren’t for the fact that we apply the same twisted standards to ourselves. Call it the “Effort Trap:” it’s dangerously easy to feel as though a 10-hour day spent plowing through your inbox, or catching up on calls, was much more worthwhile than two hours spent in deep concentration on hard thinking, followed by a leisurely afternoon off. Yet any writer, designer or web developer will tell you it’s the two focused hours that pay most—both in terms of money and fulfillment. (In Mason Currey’s 2013 book Daily Rituals, a compendium of artists’ and authors’ work routines, almost nobody reports spending more than four or five hours a day on their primary creative tasks.) Indeed, meaningful work doesn’t always lead to exhaustion at all: a few hours of absorption in it can be actively energizing—so if you’re judging your output by your tiredness, you’re sure to be misled.

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