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Stephen Mayo | How much time did you spend on it?

How much time did you spend on it?

March 28, 2021

All hours worked are not equally productive.  If I spend an hour on a project, but I’m tired, distracted or using the wrong tools, then it’s likely I’ll accomplish a lot less than if I were well-rested, focused and using the right tools.

But hours are easier to count when I treat them like they’re all equal.  And given the choice of 2 metrics to track, it’s natural to pick the one that’s easier to measure, even if it’s not the best indicator of what I want.

High quality might be the thing I really want, but it’s hard to define and measure, so maybe I substitute hours worked because they’re easier to count. In doing so, I’m conflating time spent with level of quality. I spent 25 hours on this!  It must be good quality.

Of course, more time spent does not always lead to better quality.  And in many cases, it might be better to answer some challenging questions up front:


The answers to these questions can lead to better ideas, new techniques, and more focused effort.  Not only does this clarity frequently save time, it’s an exercise in creativity, which is inherently life-giving and rewarding.  

It’s a lot more energizing and motivating to recognize “I’ll know this is done when the X,Y, and Z are achieved” than to think “I’ll know this is done when I’ve spent 10 hours on it”.  And the results will speak for themselves.

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