February 18th, 2011

On productivity

At night, when all that’s heard is our whining dog and Kerrie’s tapping on the iPad, I am at my most productive. I sit at the dinner table and marvel at my mobile office, my laptop, my notebook, my cup of tea. It’s all right there, right? Like magic. Like magical magic. Sometimes, when I’m feeling masochistic, I still smile at the novelty of having work so important that it requires an extra hour of my time.

Wait. No.

In the morning, early, when all that’s heard is the hum of fans and the occasional vehicle moving over wet cement, I am at my most productive. I’m in the office, and I’m the only one there. It’s 5 am, sure. And 5 am is usually pretty stupid. But it’s also the one chance I get to pack in two or three hours I didn’t have before. I drink some coffee. I cancel out that fan hum with some radio. I hammer out some weird deliverable that, ten years ago, I never knew even existed.

Hold on.

For a few hours each day, after the clerical tidying up, but before the afternoon chat session, I throw in my headphones and listen to music. Just loud enough to drown everything out. Just quiet enough to still be able to think. Pushed to the limit of deadline, I am at my most productive. And, unfortunately, at my most hipster-ish. That’s when Animal Collective and LCD Soundsystem come out. When I want music I can still think with. Music that helps me grow my ironic moustache.

Well, this is weird.

Because, outside of those couple of hipster-fueled musical hours, I never once said “I am at my most productive during business hours.” And, if you’re disagreeing with that notion, you’re wrong.

Sorry. You’re dead wrong.

Wait, what? No. Stop. I never said “I don’t get work done during business hours.” It’s just that, well, the work is different.

I know we need the basic structure. We need the workday. There’s a necessity in having everyone in the same place at the same time, working on the same things. I don’t even really find it work, to tell you the truth, which is kind of a snotty way of saying “my job is better than yours.” A billion advances in technology haven’t replaced the effectiveness of face-to-face discussion.

But it’s funny how many things at work, during working hours, with working colleagues and working clients, prevent us from working at our most productive. Meetings and conference calls and emails and all of those things that Merlin Mann somehow made a career out of shunning. Which makes it difficult to determine whether it’s a case of being LESS productive at work or being MORE productive in off hours.

Who can I blame for this? Probably Obama, huh?

Category: Career


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