How to Be Less Efficient

Andrew Gelman links to this post about intellectual working conditions. It reminds me of something I do every day that still amuses me. I keep track of whether I am working or not — and I count making tea as working. This helps me get started: I start by making tea. The opportunity to mislead myself (appear more efficient than I am, get something for nothing) makes me want to start working.

4 Replies to “How to Be Less Efficient”

  1. I’m attempting to debunk something.

    I work when I feel like it.

    As a child, my authorities told me that this would result in no work. I doubted – it seemed to me it only resulted in no pointless work.

    I’m winning so far. Some hurdles still to study, I don’t yet know what all of them actually require to overcome. But – if we’re measuring intellectual output one of the hurdles is for me to figure out how to reliably stop working once I’ve started. I keep staying up way too late. Also my body starts to complain at thirteen hours straight…for some reason…

    In a sense, it’s less efficient. For example, right now I’m commenting on your blog. In another sense, it’s infinitely more efficient. I never work in the sense of using self-discipline, but am productive anyway.

    The main hurdle for me is an HBD issue. So…I don’t require self-discipline to do ‘chores.’ Either a great deal of suffering is entirely unnecessary, or I’m one special snowflake.

    I think I like these options.

  2. Seth, I am curious if you have made any discoveries (or have any hypotheses) related to your working or not data.

    In the spreadsheet I fill out every night, I estimate how much time I spent across 13 categories. One of the categories is “totally useless time” and from that I have a “% time not unproductive” variable. I have found that since I started measuring these timing categories, I have looked for areas of “productive” overlap to get that percentage lower, such as reading outside, or working out while I listen to a podcast.

  3. Justin, no I have made no discoveries. I’ve been collecting the data for about a month but have yet to start to analyze it. I’ve tried this in the past; this time I hope I have a better system. I think it takes a long time just to start to be consistent in the data collection.

  4. I often get started doing actual work by trying to put up the appearance of work – i.e., my boss comes in the room, so I open a few development apps on my PC, and one thing leads to another… Suddenly, I find myself having actually completed an assignment I was going to put off until next week.

Comments are closed.