Work is a subject upon which I have spent much time, labor, and effort (pun intended). I have also spent much time studying Work, how it operates, how to improve my own productivity and the productivity of others, what it achieves, what the limitations of work may be, and so forth. Work is also a subject very dear to my heart, for I think Work is an extremely important aspect of human life. One of the fundamental aspects.
That being the case I’ll present my own views about Work and Productivity, which have changed over time as I’ve experimented with different work methods and with different means to increase my own productivity. Now I have to first admit, in the interest of fairness, that I do many different kinds of work and that each different kind of work may require a different method of efficiency and action (as regards the particular details). I suspect that is true for everyone, no matter what kind of work they do.
So, that being said, here are my general observations about work, how to be more productive, and the relationship between vacation and occupation.
1. People are supposed to spend far more time working than they are entertaining themselves. Or being entertained. That seems counter-intuitive in modern society, but it is true.
2. Most of the time it is better to work than to be entertained. Work is good for people and part of the expression of their soul, it is not just something you do for cash. If it is something you just do for cash you’re in the wrong line of work. (Nothing wrong with money, I’m not saying that, but money is just one kind of motivation for doing good work, it should not be the only motivation for doing good work.)
3. Good work is good for you, bad work is bad for you. Seems self-evident but you’d be surprised the people that never figure this out.
4. A certain percentage of your work time should be spent in a relaxed and casual mode, this helps you to problem solve, and then again a certain percentage of your time should be spent in a very serious even stressful mode – this helps you to focus and concentrate on the task. Percentages of work-mode activity will probably vary by individual.
5. Socializing all of the time at work makes you less productive and lazy. Socializing efficiently, or a certain percentage of the time, probably makes you more, not less, efficient. No man is an island, but no man should be nothing more than a social butterfly either. If you want to be a social butterfly, be that on your own time. At work socialize efficiently and casually, not obsessively and constantly.
6. Vacations are vital to help you recover from the stress of long or extended work periods. Take them, in moderation. I think a lot about work when on vacation, then again for some of my work, like writing and inventing, vacations are perfect times to get new ideas and to take notes. This doesn’t bother me at all, and makes my vacations far more enjoyable to me. But if you don’t want think about work at all on vacation, then don’t. But take vacations when you can. They are good for you. They help you recuperate and regain your energy and focus. They generate new ideas. They allow you to travel. They are beneficial. In moderation. Like wine is good for you in moderation. But drink all the time and you’re a lush and a drunk. Vacation constantly and you do nothing more than avoid work constantly. You’re slothful.
7. The same is true for entertainment. There is nothing wrong with entertainment. Enjoying yourself is very good for you. But there is something very, very wrong with the modern idea that you must be entertained at all moments of the day and night, even at work. Let a certain part of each day be reserved for entertainment. Otherwise do your work. And work before entertainment, certainly not the other way around. That’s laziness and lack of ambition.
8. Relaxation is good for you. A certain percentage of your time should be devoted to relaxation, to hobbies, personal enjoyments. Relaxation is like a mini-vacation you can take each day or week. In moderation of course, but nevertheless such time periods are very good for you. And they are good for the people around you, and they are excellent times to associate and socialize with others freely and without restriction. Your main socializing times should be during periods of relaxation, vacation, and entertainment. Not during work cycles.
9. The proper amounts of rest, sleep, entertainment, relaxation, vacation, exercise and sex will all improve your productivity. Suppression of these things tends to make you less efficient, less effective, and less productive. A good diet will also certainly improve your overall efficiency. A bad diet will make you stupid, slow, inefficient and unproductive. Improper amounts, and improper kinds, of anything decrease or suppress productivity. Proper amounts, and the proper kinds of most things, make you far more productive. Proper and improper amounts probably vary by individual. And by period. At least in some matters. (I.e. Everyone needs necessary levels of water and air to live, not everyone needs the same levels of exercise, sleep, or sex.)
10. Self-disciple is more important to high levels of productivity than is discipline inflicted by outside forces. Self-discipline is the one virtue without which no-one can ever be truly efficient or highly productive. So cultivate it as an operating principle in your own life. If you desire to work well or do important work.
11. Everyone should experiment with different methods and techniques for improving their own productivity and work capabilities. Adopt those principles which work best, discard inefficient and ineffective techniques and methods. I’d say the same is true in every area of your life. Too much of life is spent wasted pursuing ineffective and bad techniques for work, in relationships, even in entertainment. Experiment, and if something is a failure discard it, if something works then adopt it, and if something works modestly then improve it.
12. Seek out work which makes you happy and which is of benefit and profit not only to yourself but to the rest of the world. You’ll be glad you did, and so will others.
13. You’re not wedded to the same work or job for your whole life. If you’re dissatisfied with your work then improve your current work, find another occupation, make your own work, or start your own business. That might be nearly impossible in some parts of the world, but probably not for you. What prevents you from being satisfied with your work is you. Plain and simple. Everything else is just excuse making. You might not find or make satisfactory and enjoyable work overnight (that rarely happens), but you sure as hell won’t find it sitting on your furry and flea-bitten tail howling at the moon about it. Risk scouts the way, complaint kills the day.
14. Variety is very important to satisfaction in work involving constant change and new challenges. Consistency is very important as regards repetitive work. The quality and productivity of your work will be determined to a large extent by your individual nature. If your nature naturally seeks variety, seek out work involving constant change. If you have a nature that desires stability and consistency, seek out work that does not change much. Fit your work to your nature, and your nature to your work. As much as possible. Levels of variation between stability and change will fluctuate over time.
15. Schedule yourself and generally speaking you will be more productive. Allow a certain level of flexibility in your schedule, but stone by stone lain rightly builds the mighty coliseum. Better to do a little well every day, than to attempt to drink up the ocean overnight. You will have to make both sacrifices and efforts for work. The disciplining of time is the disciplining of actual achievement. Fail to discipline your time and time escapes you. And time escaped cannot be recaptured.
16. Failure is the best method of learning what won’t work. Yet you’d be surprised at the people who either stubbornly won’t learn that lesson, or never bother to notice it. Yet it directly affects your real productivity.
17. Be yourself, and your work will flourish. Be what you are not, and your work will fail.
18. Your work is important. If it isn’t something is definitely wrong with either your work, with you, or with both.
19. Work should be a natural part of your life and soul. So look first at your life and soul and this will help you determine what work is best for you to pursue. When your work is an extension of your own soul, you will love your work. When your work suppresses your soul, that is totally unnatural and counter-productive. I do not consider my work as being separate from my family, my friends, my community, state, nation, the world, or God. Rather my work integrates with all of these either things. As it should. That is the good way. It should not be the uncommon way.
20. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Whatever your Sabbath, keep one day devoted to being vacated from work, and to pursuing other things that are just as important (if not more-so) as work, such as family, home, your soul, and God. Working at your own soul will not only make you far more productive, it will make you a far better person. Work is supposed to make the world better, working at your own soul will make you better.
To me these are the most important general principles of work and productivity.