24 comments

  • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

    Are your 55+ hour weeks really productive and sustainable?

    Yes, definitely.

    The secret is doing something you enjoy.

    5 points
  • Wes OudshoornWes Oudshoorn, over 6 years ago

    Here in the Netherlands, people tend to work less hours than 40. Personally, as a business owner, I try to do only 4 days a week. When doing 5, I usually only work about 6 hours a day. I feel that I can stay longer, but not do more. I also try to make a point of doing the right things. I'd rather be effective than efficient.

    I often do stuff in the evening - hell, I'm reading up on designer news on a sunday while in the train returning from a week of skiing. But this feels like free time, I would not describe this as work.

    I feel like there's also a big difference in what people describe as work. When I was in SF last year, I spoke to people who were claiming to work long hours. Right after that, they described the lunch we were in (with casual work conversation) as work. For me, this was not work. This is, for me, the icing on the cake, the fun stuff that comes with having a business / job.

    I recently saw a tweet that said: "Work / life balance is bullshit - there is only life." This is true for me very much. Work gives me purpose and is a way to display my creativity. But life comes first.

    I don't think we'll be on our deathbeds with their family besides us saying: "We wish you would have worked more."

    3 points
  • Adrian HowardAdrian Howard, over 6 years ago

    This matches my experience. People tend to be very, very bad at judging how productive they are. I know that I still feel productive when I'm doing 40-50 hour weeks. But when I actually measure how much I do I see that I end up doing less than when I work 25-35 hours a week.

    And I love my work.

    I've worked with multiple clients where cutting back hours to 35-40 hours has, after a couple of weeks of adjustment, made the entire team more productive by every metric we had to hand. (see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3883362 for a slightly longer writeup).

    I can understand folk being sceptical, but I would strongly urge people to experiment. Pick some metrics, try working shorter hours for a month, see what happens.

    3 points
  • Allan GrinshteinAllan Grinshtein, over 6 years ago

    Here's what I've learned: The smartest guys who work the hardest win.

    If 40 hours is your limit, that's fine. But if you're a founder who buys into the fantasy that fewer than 40 hours makes you more productive, I hope you've got a company I'm competing against.

    2 points
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

      I hope you've got a company I'm competing against.

      I feel the same way. You’re working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week? We’ll outpace you 2:1.

      Like you, I don’t think it’s for everyone and I don’t think it’s something any workplace should enforce. But, if it’s your business and you’re doing what you love… bring it. Eat, sleep and breathe work, if that’s what excites you.

      0 points
      • Adrian HowardAdrian Howard, over 6 years ago

        Then how do you explain the fact that I've seen multiple teams passionate about their work start tracking what they do, and then "do more" once they stopped working 50-60 hour weeks.

        Have you tried working 40 hours a week for a month and seen whether you end up doing less? Or is it just a hunch?

        1 point
        • Eliot SlevinEliot Slevin, over 6 years ago

          I think that's because of how design and development is actually a 24h job, as planning it out in your head first is about half of the work.

          If you're working long hours, you feel more inclined to rush into ideas, which could be a time waste as you don't actually end up using it, or it's just bad and get's scrapped. But if the person is working less hours, that means more time to sleep on it and weigh up the pros and cons, so they spend more working hours on relevant tasks.

          As for Allan and Marc? They're just freaking machines :P

          1 point
        • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

          Then how do you explain the fact that I've seen multiple teams passionate about their work start tracking what they do, and then "do more" once they stopped working 50-60 hour weeks.

          I wasn’t talking about teams, I was talking about me. I probably don’t have a normal work pattern — I work in 3 or so blocks each day, typically with large breaks in between. I try hard to make sure I have a list of tasks for each work block, to ensure it’s productive.

          I don’t find the idea of a 9–5 work day appealing at all and I think trying to force a specific routine that fits into set hours can be counterproductive (for me, anyway). It’s especially detrimental if you’re on a roll and don’t want to stop when the clock hits 5:30PM.

          Have you tried working 40 hours a week for a month and seen whether you end up doing less?

          How rigorous do you think an athlete’s training schedule for the Olympics is? Do you think they’d be better off sticking to 9–5 and not training on weekends?

          0 points
          • Adrian HowardAdrian Howard, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

            How rigorous do you think an athlete’s training schedule for the Olympics is? Do you think they’d be better off sticking to 9–5 and not training on weekends?

            Very rigorous - and they know that doing too much is just as harmful as not doing enough ;-)

            And if you have the time I really would just try the experiment. I know I used to think that I could productively work 50 hours a week - and didn't feel bad doing it.

            When I actually tried measuring what I produced I found that I produced more when I worked less, felt better, and found the time to do and learn other things.

            Why not give it a whirl - just for a month - and see what happens?

            (And I'm all for multiple blocks of work, and not necessarily running a 9-5 schedule. In fact the research would back you up that multiple chunks of work with breaks is more effective. It's the total number of hours worked that's the issue.)

            0 points
            • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

              Why not give it a whirl - just for a month - and see what happens?

              Because I don’t believe there is a useful metric I can use to measure my productivity.

              0 points
  • Ben Henschel, over 6 years ago

    I generally subscribe to the idea of working smarter, not harder. Being busy for the sake of being busy isn't productive. Like the article said, it's more about feeling important than actually getting work done. If something is taking you 50 hours a week, you should be questioning why you can't get it done in 40 hours.

    1 point
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

      If something is taking you 50 hours a week, you should be questioning why you can't get it done in 40 hours.

      Some of us run businesses where there is always more that can be done. I don’t think I could simply remove 10 or 20 hours from my week and get as much done.

      (Maybe posting less on DN would allow me to get more done? But on the other hand, I consider posting on DN as part of my job.)

      0 points
      • Ben Henschel, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

        80/20 that stuff. If 80% (or 90%, 70%, etc) of your revenue is coming from 20% (or 10%, 30% etc) of your clients, then ditch the rest. Those clients are problem causing the most work/headache anyway. Then figure out the similarities of those 20% clients and try and replicate them. Only take work from people that fit that mold. I get that if you run your own business you can always be doing more, but just because you can doesn't mean you should. I don't know I just think you should always be questioning what you are doing and asking yourself is this really the most valuable thing I could be doing right now. Or better yet, ask if it really needs to be done at all. And setting goals can also help you from working too much. If you goal is to make X dollars a month and you already have clients lined up to reach that X amount, then if someone comes along offering $50 bucks to make Y, tell them no! It's a distraction, and not worth the money, and you are already meeting your goal.

        0 points
        • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

          We don’t have clients and I definitely don’t care about money (beyond a certain point).

          0 points
          • Ben Henschel, over 6 years ago

            Just an example, the same idea can be applied to anything.

            0 points
            • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

              Just an example, the same idea can be applied to anything.

              I completely disagree.

              If there’s two people competing and one has dedicated their life and is entirely immersed in solving a problem, and the other is clocking on at 9AM and off at 5PM, who do you think is going to get more done? Who’s going to reach the solution faster?

              Most people who are leaders in their field have worked hard and worked long hours to get there. Most successful products have had their fair share of pain and crazy hours.

              To think you can just phone it in by working 9–5 is extremely naive.

              I’m not suggesting others should work harder. You can do whatever you like.

              But, like Allan suggested, I hope for your sake that you’re not up against someone with a relentless passion who’s working long hours, because they’ll run rings around you.

              0 points
              • Ben Henschel, over 6 years ago

                I get what you are saying in spirit and I agree. But again it comes down to what you are working on. For example:

                Person A: Works 80 hours a week, working very hard, but only spends part of their time actually solving the problem at hand, and spends the rest of their time doing what seems like productive, but ultimately useless work.

                Vs

                Person B: Works 40 hours a week, but solely works on the problem at hand, says no to anything that's not going to have a direct impact, and is extremely focused.

                I'd go with person B every time. They are working smarter, they are less distracted, less burnt out, and more refreshed that person A.

                And these are arbitrary numbers, I don't care if you work 40 hours or 100 hours, the whole point is to work smarter, not harder. I really think having laser focus and only working on things that actually push results will out beat someone who just works and works and works and ends up working on things just to work on things.

                And if with laser focus you end up working 80 hours a week sometimes (or even all the time) that's fine, but I think its always good to be always questioning if what you're working is really needed, will it really bring value, or am I just doing work for the sake of doing work. Working just to be busy is just another form of procrastinating.

                0 points
                • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

                  They are working smarter, they are less distracted, less burnt out, and more refreshed that person A.

                  In my case, I assure you that I’m not burnt out. I’m so excited that I look forward to Monday morning every week. I say that typically having done some work on the weekend. I really can not get enough.

                  I really think having laser focus and only working on things that actually push results will out beat someone who just works and works and works and ends up working on things just to work on things.

                  I assure you that I’m not just “working on things just to work on things”. We have very specific targets we want to hit.

                  Why is it so hard to believe that some people can be more productive with a 60+ hour week over a 40 hour week? Is it such a radical concept? Remember that we’re talking about individuals, not an entire workforce optimisation.

                  0 points
  • Pedro PintoPedro Pinto, over 6 years ago

    Hey Allan and Marc, do you guys ask the same kind of commitment from your team or you're ok if some members work 40hours?

    1 point
    • Allan GrinshteinAllan Grinshtein, over 6 years ago

      Nope. I don't ask that anyone work long hours.

      0 points
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 6 years ago

      do you guys ask the same kind of commitment from your team

      We’re tiny and all work remotely. We only really have one staff member in the traditional sense, and they set their own hours.

      I don’t know how we’d run things if we actually had an office. I definitely wouldn’t expect anyone to work the hours I do and I probably would tell people to go home if they were still around at 6PM.

      I think good people tend thrive when given freedom, responsibility and a challenge.

      1 point
      • Pedro PintoPedro Pinto, over 6 years ago

        That's a great attitude, probably most of the time in startups we see the opposite, the founders asking their teams to have the same kind of commitment.

        0 points
  • Michael AleoMichael Aleo, over 6 years ago

    Research shows that consistently working more than 40 hours a week is simply unproductive.

    What a sweeping generalization. If you're working on something that is going to take 50 hours of time, and you finish it in 50 hours, I'd hardly call those extra 10 hours unproductive...

    1 point