A few weeks ago, I was getting lunch with my mentor and talking about my post-graduation plans. He was encouraging me to go off and do something on my own. “I know you’re going to work your ass off anyway; it might as well be for yourself.”
It’s hard to quantify working one’s ass off. And I don’t mean that to be funny, but I can’t grasp where that threshold is of working hard vs. working your ass off.
In high school, I was a (poor) sprinter — 100, 200, and 400 meter dash. The problem was, in those short distances and with high school recording equipment, my times were fairly inconsistent. And it was almost always slower than I’d hoped for. I would always say to myself, “Wait, why didn’t I just run faster?”
Like sprinting, it’s hard to tell when I’ve truly maxed out on a task or project. Even though in the heat of the moment I feel like I’m doing all that I can, it’s all too easy to look back and think, “I could’ve done more.”
I’ve begun experimenting trying to “max out” in shorter bursts, like sprinting. I’m doing this in two ways, which I’d encourage you to try with me and let me know your results.
1. Every morning I open a blank text document and do a brain dump. What are my first thoughts this morning? What is nagging at me? What am I worried about forgetting? By doing this, I document all those things I’m constantly reminding myself to remember, and clearing my mind. This was a trick I heard from my former boss, Fundable CEO Wil Schroter.
2. The Pomodoro technique. I read about this in a referral on Quora described as: “The core of this approach is the value of focusing for short bursts of activity. Specifically, one chooses a task (or set of tasks) to be completed in 25 minutes, sets a timer for 25 minutes, closes the door, unplugs the phone, turns off IM notifications and closes their email software, and works, diligently, on only the task at hand, for 25 minutes. Then you can take a 5 minute break.”
The contributor goes on to explain that he then measures how many Pomodoro “cycles” he can complete in a day. This will become my new metric for “working my ass off” and feeling satisfied with my productivity without working just for the sake of work.
In fact, I just wrote this email in 25 minutes — cycle one complete! What are you working on? Let me know how I can help.