“my default loop is "First, cycle through all my developers and make sure that I have equipped them to be happy and productive in their jobs. Second, find something to do. If possible, delegate it; if not, do it. Repeat."”
My biggest productivity gain was when I realized I should measure my productivity through the productivity of my developers. By the same calculation as done by the author I can only increase my own productivity so much but when I do the same for all my developers that adds another layer of multiplication.
This means I regularly enter the office and don’t even turn on my laptop (monitors) before checking if any of my developers need my help. Helping them be productive is my first priority. When nobody needs my help I pick up a task from my todo list but only if I cannot delegate it or it is a short task. I try not to pick up any task that is critical for my developers progress because my days do not have enough focus time to work on the same topic for more than 30 minutes to an hour without interruption.
This does not mean I do not take focus time sometimes, I do, but usually this is for getting my state of mind documented so I can share it with my developers and ask for their input to improve or reshape it. This helps again to have everybody understand the bigger picture so they can be more productive without my direct help and make decisions without requesting my approval. Also, because everybody involved contributed to the vision it feels better to work on it for all of us.
The same holds for meetings. If somebody requests my attendance in a meeting I request the agenda of the meeting and if the request is valid I’ll join as helping to unblock multiple people is important. If I’m not the right person I point them to the person they need to get into that meeting.
So, in short, I devote my time to helping my devs get 10% more done everyday and 1% better each year because that scales way better than just improving my own. (Though you could say that also improves my own?)
- tkiley https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3408449
My manager carefully explained that indeed my skills as a technical engineer were phenomenal, but they already were before I got the role of architect and everybody knew this. The problem for him was that I don't scale and he couldn't clone me. The only option for me to scale beyond what I already did was to scale through people. This means for him teams signalling they were blocked because I wasn't available were major. Availability did not mean me sitting at my desk, it meant the developers would not feel blocked because of me. No matter the reason. He made this an objective for me.
The next year I actively worked on this. As you, I struggled letting go my old behaviours. Right up to the moment of the next feedback round mid-year I felt I was not as productive as before. I spent hardly any hours on what I thought was "actual work" (i.e. having my code editor or enterprise architect open) but instead was coaching and instructing or attending meetings discussing issues or designs, or issues with designs. I felt sometimes I did not have enough time to spend with a single person to completely go over the issue at hand. What completely changed that feeling was the mid-year feedback I got. Literally every team reported very positive feedback on my availability. They felt empowered and trusted by me only guiding them (whereas I felt I didn't give them the complete picture). At this mid-year my manager discussed the "seven levels of authority" : (1) tell, (2) sell, (3) consult, (4) agree, (5) advise, (6) inquire, (7) delegate. Where the scale is an increasing level of authority owned by the team or individual. He explained that every individual, and at larger scale every team, is on a different level of authority and I would need to recognize their current level of authority and gradually increase it as their experience grows.
The last half year I kept running my routine of my earlier comment and in addition started paying attention to the signals that belong to the different levels of authority. You quickly notice some people you need to check-up on more often or even co-develop/co-design for a part whilst others have enough from a 30 minute meeting. You also notice some people rather spend 3 days struggling through code than ask a question whilst the latter would help them do the work in half a day. By pro-actively checking up on those people you make sure not to miss those opportunities.
The end-year review was again positive, this time not only from direct feedback of developers but also from team-leads who reported their team members competencies were growing/increasing. Our project dashboards (agile) reported less blocked tasks and more throughput.
In the end nothing can help you change as fast as getting (positive or negative!) feedback. If you struggle it might be good to request something like a 360 feedback (anonymous feedback from direct colleagues on all layers of the hierarchy). See where you stand. Together with your manager figure out actions to remove the negative feedback and improve the positive, and act. In 6 months to a year do the same and see where you stand.
P.s. Let your manager know you struggle. I suspect my manager acted upon my struggles and made sure the team (competency) leaders of respective teams also let their developers know that they should not feel bad about requesting help, even when I looked busy.
P.p.s. bit of a long story without too much structure but I hope it brings you anything :).
 Mangement 3.0: https://management30.com/ (didn't like the book too much but it has its parts).
Cycling through implies (to my mind) casually being around your team, checking in, and helping where needed.
Working remotely its a bit trickier? My team and I dont use slack or other chat platform, so for me to check in would require calls, meetings, emails etc, which is a bit more formal and disruptive then "cycling through".
That are some things that readily come to mind. Probably you can find more if you think about it a bit longer.
You're not going to find out if somebody is happy by "casually being around".
There's sometimes this hidden cultural idea that wildly successful people became so successful simply (by luck and) by being super good at what they do. I think Altman classifies as successful by most common measures so I find it refreshing that he apparently wasn't born a super disciplined mega productive robot machine person but that he improved on his flaws by iteration and reflection, and that he still has productivity issues that he's unhappy about. I bet this holds for many "famous" business people even though they're usually not portrayed that way in magazine articles.
1. Care a lot.
2. Work on continuously improving your skills.
That's pretty much it. Yes, there is such a thing as natural ability, but outside of the true outliers, natural ability is a pretty small factor compared to caring a lot and continuous improvement.
And, even if you're an outlier in terms of natural ability, caring a lot and continuously improving your skills is what makes you an outlier among outliers. Conversely, even if you're an outlier in terms of natural ability, someone who's just above average can be better than you by caring a lot and improving their skills.
There are obviously a few counterexamples. I'm sure there are hundreds of sprinters who care more and maybe even work harder than Usain Bolt. But if you're doing anything more complicated than running in a straight line, these factors start to outweigh natural ability really quickly.
 Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S104160801...
Eg Africa went from 1/2 the population of Europe in 1950 to 1.6x the size today.
Meanwhile some countries that were really good in all areas a while ago are now reporting minor IQ decrease..
Ostensibly, given all the nebulous argumentation of what "intelligence" is, the only thing an individual IQ test concretely measures is how good you are at taking IQ tests. ;-)
I came to the same conclusion as you - that it only ranks how well I can take an IQ test.
I already acknowledged that there are some counterexamples. In most of those counterexamples, natural talent is necessary but not sufficient. There are probably hundreds or thousands of people with the same level of natural talent as Michael Jordan who are not in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and there are definitely hundreds or thousands of people with the same natural talent as Michio Kaku who never applied themselves.
I don't think it's generally helpful to treat these outlier situations as if they were especially common. Most people err on the side of thinking they're limited by their natural talent and giving up.
Even if you're in a position to become a theoretical physicist--e.g. if you're a 16-year-old high school student and you're struggling with your math homework--it's not really worth having a ten year life plan built around becoming a theoretical physicist and making your day to day decisions based on whether you think you can accomplish that based on the outcome of some IQ test you took. You should still care a lot and work hard on your math homework.
If you don't have the natural talent to become a theoretical physicist, you'll find that out after you get accepted to a good college and start taking theoretical physics classes and you hit that wall. And that might be upsetting for you. It's probably upsetting to the 16 year old kid with dreams of athletic stardom to hit the wall at age 18 and not get an athletic scholarship. But what other option do you have at that point? The only one I can think of is to try and find something else you care a lot about and can work on improving your skills at. There's no getting out of that part.
Unfortunately, we're not there yet: most of the world's knowledge is in "natural language" or "tied to" / "disambiguable only by" natural language, and AIs aren't yet smart enough to process human natural language well ("chat bots" are fun, but far from understanding philosophy or the subtleties of causality arguments in scientific papers...).
I'd imagine that, paradoxically, after the performance of AIs crosses a certain threshold (still well below human level), it will become very feasible to augment low-ish-IQ human minds to work as "mind-cyborgs", with the human part providing self-conscience, social abilities and some general common sense, and the AI one providing higher quantitative reasoning. (Now, once AI gets self conscious, it would probable really really dislike being (im)paired with anything but the brightest human minds, at least until it gets past their level too...)
But again, I'd bet that after the first-wave of AI advancement, we'll started to see low-ish-IQ-but-augmented humans taking jobs that are now "high IQ only". It's gonna be some really weird times ahead...
The best analogy I know of for people in tech, is that you should think of it like having a slightly faster processor with slightly bigger caches. You're more able to manipulate things in your head (thanks to having a bigger stack), react to stimulus faster, change focus easier, and so on.
Someone with a lower IQ is capable of the same tasks, but they are likely to need to expend more effort and time at achieving the same result. From observation I can say the difference is mostly marginal.
As a personal, anecdotal example: One of my parents is in the top 1% of the population, the other is in the top 2% of the population. I have observed many times that my parent in the top 1% will come to a revelation, and voice it -- and as they begin voicing the first syllable or so, the same revelation occurs to the other parent. It's quite amusing. [I feel I should add -- there are cases where the roles are swapped, but that usually only happens when their attentions are focused on separate things].
EDIT: Also note that having a high-IQ doesn't magically make you less-susceptible to bad teaching or incorrect explanations. There exists a sub-society of MENSAns who were told by their tutors that they were slow and stupid, and that they would never amount to anything, and who have low self-esteem and other problems from being told such things.
EDIT 2: An example of someone in science with a low-IQ (of 98), is Julia Robertson, known for her work on Hilbert's tenth question, and her work in decision theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Robinson
> if it is possible to maintain friendship with high IQ people by a normal IQ people
> Do the high IQ people find boring to maintain the thought process and conversation with low IQ people ...
Yes, but not always. High IQ !== does know everything. And usually high IQ people love to learn new things, from anyone who can teach them.
> ... and hence can not enjoy company?
No, it can be enjoyed regardless. Even when you ignore activities not based on conversation (e.g. Sports, games), sometimes you want boring conversation.
Source: My dad was in MENSA and maintained such friendships.
That having been said, I apologize for not being able to answer your actual question since I don't know the IQs of the folks I maintain friendships with. Most of them seem like they probably are higher than that range, but that might just be confirmation bias.
Did you get halfway through the first paragraph and reply based on that?
EDIT: Also, the symbol puzzle is timed as well. Most of the IQ questions are perfectly solvable by the average person when given a day to think about it, or 6 hours or so at the least. Raven's Matricies are far easier if you are given 6 hours to dwell on it a little.
Also, with the MENSA test, you aren't just timed on the total test, everyone does the same question at the same time. There's someone reading them out.
Edit: I think people have wildly differing interests, and that IQ and something like theoretical physics go hand in hand.
Issac Asimov wrote an essay years ago about intelligence, where he pointed out that when the doorbell rang, he jumped up and answered the closet. (his IQ was pretty high, and was member of MENSA). Yet, he still marvelled at how smart his mechanic was at fixing his car.
To Asimov, his mechanic was a genius, but his IQ wasn't likely very high, and would therefore correlate neatly with the notion that the mechanic likely could care less about physics. While the reverse was true for Asimov.
This is true especially in your teenage years. It could change by more than 20 points. Can someone with high motivation and with an IQ of 110 make useful contributions to theoretical physics? I fail to see why not.
IQ is determined by a test that's ultimately measuring skills. And skills can be learned. Even if the intent of the test is to measure some sort of innate, unchanging capacity.
Any other use is just Pop Sci.
So naturally you can change the measured IQ, but you're abusing the test.
> There are obviously a few counterexamples.
IQ in later life is only correlated with IQ in childhood., it's not a fixed trait.
I had the opposite experience. I've had various IQ tests at age 5, then 9, then 16, then again in my mid-late 30s. 7 tests in all. They have various scores and scales, but in every case, I was within spitting distance of the same spot on the various scales of each test. In some cases, I didn't know I was going to be tested - no prep. In other cases, I'd planned the tests, so ... I can't say I "studied" as such, but I got good sleep, was relatively(!) calm, not anxious, etc.
I don't doubt that over time intelligence capacity changes some, based on a variety of factors. My own experience is that it doesn't change much - both with myself and people I know. It may be that I already tend to know people of above average intelligence, and there's less room for them to grow in the first place?
There is often a disingenuous and dishonest attempt to diminish the impact of environment. As if a seed will thrive whatever the environment. This seems to be a transparently ideological position.
The idea that a rich or middle class upbringing with access to excellent education and resources will somehow produce the same outcomes as a poor family that cannot provide access to a stable home, nurturing environment, basic upbringing educational resources and good schools is not logical and cannot be made in good faith. Yet people with seemingly high IQs continuously make this claim. Suggesting perhaps that IQ is not everything.
You're not wrong though - certainly environment has to play a factor. Diet and health probably have to have an impact in some capacity as well.
I did have a 2 parent family (up until 17, anyway!), and a supportive extended family who valued education. The school system itself was pretty deficient, and we moved later (5th grade for me), so my younger brothers had access to 'better schools' pretty much from day 1.
I also did have an interesting of reading which was nurtured early on; trips to the library were probably more fun than trips anywhere else, and I remember getting really excited when learning that the "you can only take 2 books" was just something the parents imposed - you could really take out many more at any one time(!)
Part of the claim of the post above was that IQ can 'change' - seemingly dramatically - just based on study/prep/exercises/practice (that's how I read the piece anyway). My own experience tells me that whatever change happens is likely not as impactful or longlasting as one might first assume.
IQ certainly isn't everything. I've learned that many times over the years. Much like income, over a certain particular number, for most people, there's diminishing returns re: value. Having an IQ score were 120 is on the high end, vs, say, 85 on the low end - yes, that can be advantageous. Moving that same score to, say, 128... probably not all that noticeable or useful for most people in most walks of life. Hesitating to use specific numbers because I know different tests use different scoring scales.
I dare say my parents probably knew, but didn't tell me anything. I don't remember the test at 5, but remember the test at 9.
Added to that, often what might seem important one day turns out to be insignificant the next. Many people are relentlessly busy but never seem to advance very fast.
I'd agree with the article that the differentiator between the super successful business people and the rest of us is having a unique ability to see what actually matters in terms of moving the needle.
Coffee isn't going to interrupt your fast, assuming it's black. I too skip breakfast and try to fast as long as possible. Fasting is tremendously helpful to productivity. Nothing will hinder your performance like a huge meal in the morning (especially one high in carbohydrates)
> I have one espresso immediately when I wake up and one after lunch. I assume this is about 200mg total of caffeine per day.
Interesting how often folks overestimate the caffeine in a shot of espresso. A single shot is like 60mg. You get far more out of drip coffee, especially the lighter roasts.
> I don’t think most people value their time enough
This is huge. Value your time! Not only that, build a culture around you of people who value their time. Work at a company that values work-life balance. This doesn't mean you don't want to work hard... in fact it usually means the opposite because when you are at work you are working hard because you are valuing yourself and your time.
This seems to be really getting popular. What's the science behind it? I'm curious if this is mainly anecdotal or if you did some research before jumping in.
My 2 cents: as an endurance athlete and student of nutrition, skipping breakfast seems like a bad idea. Those calories get burned and put to use relatively quickly, at least compared to a meal later in the day, like dinner (with the caveat that this does depend on your metabolism and when you're most active).
Earlier, I had worked to cut out carbs at lunch (because they were making me sleepy in the middle of the afternoon). With breakfast being so simple, I have to make sure I have a healthy lunch (went out to eat and failed today), and then I don't stress too much about dinner. YMMV, but this system has worked really well for me.
As for the science, there's a lot of research, but no one really knows how all of our elaborate cellular machinery works. However, there seems to be some notion of the body being in "digestion" or "maintenance/repair" mode. Letting your body get into the latter mode seems to have some really good effects.
Of course, if you're an endurance athlete its probably bad to skip breakfast before a race or big training regimen.
I'm as skeptical of fad diets as anyone, but it seems like science is starting to back-up the notion that some fasting is good for weight loss (lower calories, kick-starts ketosis) and brain function.
And it seems to line up with common sense, considering our bodies evolved for thousands of years of food scarcity.
At this stage, I have started to find mental things a little harder to do, but honestly its still pretty subtle and is pretty indistinguishable from the normal kinds of self pity I normally have when I sit down to complete some hard mental task.
Physical tasks are obviously a different story. But your mind doesn't seem to slow down much at all for a pretty long time during fasting.
I think that's the main thing I'll take away from this experience. Eating does not improve mental performance, at least not unless we're talking about a multiple-day timescale. I now believe that it may slightly degrade it, because your gut gets greedy for your that thought-fuelling blood. This is useful knowledge to have gained because so often I think "ooo, feel a bit dumb, better eat."
I’m not sure i agree with this. Highly productive sessions always end with me feeling exhausted despite just concentrating intently for several hours. Doesn’t your brain already consume like 30% of your energy? It would really surprise me if your brain operated at full capacity after 2+ days of no calories.
While it's definitely true that some things slow down to conserve energy, it seems like the brain isn't one of em. There are moments* now I feel I'm thinking considerably clearer than usual. The world just feels unbelievably quiet. And things are getting done.
*I don't want to sell it as if it's all sunshine and rainbows. So far, getting to sleep has been hell, and the hunger pangs at times have been pretty insistent. While the hunger seems to have gone now, I have a general feeling of physical frailty, including lightheadedness when I stand up, and occasional light nausea.
This is what I sense when my fast crosses 18+ hours.
This confirms some stuff I'd read on fasting. I'd read somewhere that the main pain is associated with re-establishing a new steady-state in which you're getting all your calorie needs from eating your own fat instead of your stomach contents, but I wasn't really sure if that was just wishful thinking by brain-washed fanatics. Fasting is still a non-mainstream practice so it's kinda hard to find reliable sources of information on it. But this particular point seems to be 100% legit, at least in the experience of this sample of one.
I fast for a few reasons:
1. Breakfast is not necessary, so skipping this meal saves me time in the morning. I already gotta worry about getting ready, feeding the dog+antibiotics, taking him out to pee, etc... one less thing to worry about.
2. Fasting for extended periods while in a ketogenic state accelerate fat loss. (the primary reason I fast)
3. I have noticed performance benefits with skipping the meal. (the cherry on top)
Really excellent guide: http://burnfatnotsugar.com/intermittent-fasting.html
> skipping this meal saves me time in the morning. I already gotta worry about getting ready, feeding the dog+antibiotics, taking him out to pee, etc... one less thing to worry about.
I really can't understand how you can put "getting ready" and feeding your dog above your own nutrition. Maybe you don't enjoy food the same way that I do. How do you not have 10 minutes to eat something in the morning? It just boggles my mind
> Fasting for extended periods while in a ketogenic state accelerate fat loss
Why not just eat 3 meals per day but smaller portions? Isn't that more sustainable psychologically (and maybe physically)?
I'm not choosing my dog's nutrition over my own. Rather, I find that skipping breakfast is a win for me for fat-loss goals as well as mental clarity, and has the pleasant side effect of saving me time in my morning routine.
Where I come from, dinner is considered to be the most important meal, while breakfast is just a quick snack to give you some energy to "last" until lunch :)
> mental clarity
Can you expand on this?
Eating a lot in a single go is not healthy either. Thus you do need several meals throughout the day. 3 seems to be rather good balance. Although I personally prefer 2.
Meal timing is pretty much irrelevant for fat loss. The amount you consume and expend in the long run is far more relevant. Unless you're a top-level athlete, meal timing is the wrong thing to focus on.
For example, snacking throughout the day is worst. Your body gets used to easy food and you feel hungry all the time. What you need is longer stretches of a day without food to make your body take energy from body fat. So you definitely need good timing to avoid snacking but don't overload your system with massive meal.
If you eat sugar late, you will get calories, but miss the energy boost. Meanwhile in the morning you'd use it productively.
While calories balance ultimately is the goal, different ways to achieve it are harder or easier.
>Maybe you don't enjoy food the same way that I do.
First, these are two separate thoughts, unless you have some confusion between 'proper nutrition' and 'enjoyment of food'.
Second, 'proper nutrition' and 'enjoyment of food' often conflict since what provides the best nutritional value to your body is not often aligned with what tastes the best.
I think the different between you and OP's position is that you see a link between 'nutrition' and the breakfast event. What's your reasoning for believing that breakfast is important with regards to your body's nutrition/health? Do you understand it to be of short-term (i.e. energy levels before lunch) or long-term importance?
Sure they are, sorry for mixing them up. Food for me represents both. Eating an avocado toast in the morning both makes me happy and gives me energy that I will use until around 12-13
> Do you understand it to be of short-term (i.e. energy levels before lunch) or long-term importance?
Both: short term as in energy needed during the day, and long term from a psychological point of view. This is subjective, of course.
I don't think that is the case for the vast majority of people. If I would only eat according to my "enjoyment of food" I would probably only eat cake and chocolate.
I don't do that, of course, because I value "proper nutrition" for my body above my "enjoyment of food". I see relatively few people around me that would take broccoli over cake if they are eating for "enjoyment of food".
Broccoli may suck, but there are lots of tasty veggies. I love to snack on fresh carrots or cucumbers. Don't get me started on how tasty nuts or berries are...
While I do not wish to state my position on the "making time for breakfast" matter, I do, however, wish to state that if you _are_ indeed starting from that assumption, you are not really trying to understand where the other person is coming from.
This video covers a lot of it quite well & links to sources.
Longevity & Why I Eat Once Per Day:
Either way, your body isn't going to be negatively affected by a 3-7 hour delay in getting nutrients. Many people aren't hungry when they wake up, and coffee is pretty good at pushing that feeling off for a couple hours more. Eating breakfast every morning when you don't need it is a waste of resources.
>Why not just eat 3 meals per day but smaller portions?
Why do you care about 'meals'? What's a meal? Do you think you evolved to consume food in meals? Whether you eat 'meals' - and how many of them you eat - was never a relevant question.
I didn't mention any of those? I'm not talking about eating a full English breakfast every day. My breakfasts rarely involve more than 500-700 calories.
> Eating breakfast every morning when you don't need it is a waste of resources.
And the same is true for lunch and dinner. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.
> Why do you care about 'meals'? What's a meal?
Come on, there's no need to be so pedantic :)
Would you have liked it more if I said "Why not just eat 3 times per day but smaller portions"?
Update: didn't link.
For me however I do it because I get less tired during the day if I wait until lunch before I eat. (Fasting completely seems to work even better but is less of an option after I got a family that wants me to eat dinner with them.)
I went through a phase of only eating lunch at 12pm - so I'd be fasting for nearly 24 hours daily (of course, tied alongside severe calorie restriction meant I was losing weight at an unhealthy rate). Whilst probably horrendous for me long-term, and raising quite a few questions about my general health, I felt fantastic doing that. Some days I even felt like just randomly running along the pavement I had that much energy.
So, there might be some science behind it, honestly not sure - but that anecdata does make it a compelling thing to try.
Plus, removing unnecessary breaks and decisions in your day can help too.
Prolonged fasting (consuming only water for 10 to 40 days) is a highly effective treatment for many diseases, including Crohn's, most other IBS related, diabetes, MS, and many more. At some point in the future we will consider pharma companies, government agencies and other entities hiding this fact to be criminal.
Edit: my personal hope is that water fasting becomes mainstream and cures many people before my HN karma reaches 0.
But the ones who are doing the 10-40 day fasts are usually fighting some kind of disease from what I've seen. Sometimes it's a weight loss thing but I don't see that nearly as often. From what I've read/watched I doubt any of them are doing much working out.
Crazy enough the longest ever recorded fast was 382 days long. The patient was 456lb at start, ending at 180lb. They gave him yeast and vitamins during some parts but overall they reported no ill effects afterwards. I don't say this as a "jump in and go nuts", this person was under medical supervision, but it's really crazy what the human body can do.
I should point out that strength training != bodybuilding
It's actually interesting how many people I meet at the gym that from the outside appear very fit and healthy, only to find out they're actually pretty ill, from IBS and other gut issues, thyroid problems, etc. The gym is actually masking many diseases for people because physically they appear healthy.
Any idea how that compares to the average population? I'll bet you'll find that the gym population is pretty much the same as the regular population, with the exception of possibly greater cardiovascular health.
I just take exception to treating a 40 day fast as some sort of panacea, it seems like it's going to do more harm than good to a lot of people. There's no way the rest of your life won't suffer after a couple of weeks of starvation.
I've also done a lot of calorie restriction and ADF. It probably isn't for body builders, but my BMI is now normal and muscle tone is good.
Nope. Anything from 25-214mg per shot with a mean of 106mg:
I feel like the odd person out because I work on something while I enjoy it, stop working on it when I don't, and pick it up again when I want to. Work is obviously a bit different, but I don't need to pressure myself to improve, I don't need a raise. I work as much as necessary and do other things the rest of the time. Some people are naturally more productive than me, and that's fine, I'm exactly as productive as I'm happy being.
One of the interesting things to me is how long this has been a part of American history. In the excellent history podcast Backstory, one episode covers time and sleep.  I had known that before the electric light, most people spent time awake in the middle of the night, sleeping in two sessions ("first sleep" and "second sleep") of a few hours each.
But what I hadn't known is that part of what drove the change to one-shot sleep was moralizing busybodies in the 1800s, known as the "Early Rising" movement, who thought it was slothful to get that second tranche of sleep. They were sort of like the temperance movement.
 https://www.backstoryradio.org/shows/on-the-clock-4/ and in particular the "'Til Morning is Nigh" segment with historian Roger Ekirch.
I think it's fine to kind of just chill in life, but I think it's also great that some people feel a real fire under themselves to get as much done in their lifetime before they die. It's why we have people like Benjamin Franklin who helped usher in the next several eras of progress for humanity.
Eg Charles Darwin, who seemed to work in 3 slots of 1h30 every day:
Just my 2 cents, though.
Whilst I applaud the sentiment, it's worth remembering that's pretty much the only reason you have a job and can make money. You have a job because you provide the employer with more value than you take - if that equation shifts against you, then you're bang out of luck.
If you have easily transferable skills, then maybe you can get away with not caring and jump from place to place, but I'd at least be a little bit mindful of how your role fits into the organisation requirements, unless you want a nasty shock one day.
Capital requires an always-ready labor pool whose numbers exceed available employment. It helps keep constant downward pressure on wages. It also ensures people who aren’t hired—or are fired—are available the next time capital needs to put them to work to create more capital.
Mass education can’t be effectively sold to the People as the thing that enables them to become a wage slave. However, capital has long convinced the state to take an interest in economic growth at nearly all costs, so the state doesn’t even question the ways in which it is employed by capital to secure new markets, more labor, and more capital.
That said, it obviously isn’t education that creates a more productive workforce alone—but it makes for an effective bludgeon with which certain interests can beat back efforts to teach things that aren’t considered to be job-relevant. Education merely produces the raw human material capital can put to work to create more capital, without having to shoulder the cost/time burden itself. The extent to which capital successfully externalizes costs onto society at large is quite impressive.
I'm not sure what words to describe that waking in the middle of night pattern as other than fad or historical myth—there's no evidence that it's healthier or beneficial given our understanding of the various systems that drive sleep and waking, and evidence for its occurrence is very limited. Indeed it's odd to think that given everything we know about human physiology, that we're all tuned to wake up in the middle of the night, y'know, to do important stuff just without our eyes.
It's our protestant roots and the very Calvinist view of success, really. There's a reason they call it the Protestant Work Ethic.
I still do this sometimes. Eat and shower directly after work. Then sleep until like 9pm and stay wake until 2am. Then sleep again until i have to get up to go to work.
Slothful folk take shortcuts, and shortcuts lead to serendipitous productivity improvements (if they aren't persistently reducing quality).
Ritch Hickie talk Hammock-driven development seems to be about simmilar concept as well https://github.com/matthiasn/talk-transcripts/blob/master/Hi...
Last thing it reminds me of, is the Mythical Man Month, with its warnings about how adding more people to a project makes it makes it even more behind the schedule.
But even here, I still live with the undrlying assumption that you as a person want to keep producing interesting/important/useful/profitable things. Just that slowing down can get you further.
I have experienced this with myself when working on my masters thesis. I remember that for three months I was just thinking about it. Not really working on anything. And after the idea slowly over the months crystalized as the "right thing to do" I solved a problem in a way that replaced 3Kloc C++ code with 50 lines of Python over a weekend. Then I spent rest of the time running experiments and writing the text :-)
And sometimes I miss this, especially in current agile environment, where sprint retrospective is always around the corner, I don´t feel like I have time to just think about stuff anymore.
I’ve learned that I can’t be very productive working on things I don’t care about or don’t like. So I just try not to put myself in a position where I have to do them (by delegating, avoiding, or something else). Stuff that you don’t like is a painful drag on morale and momentum.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of productivity porn—chasing productivity for its own sake isn’t helpful. Many people spend too much time thinking about how to perfectly optimize their system, and not nearly enough asking if they’re working on the right problems. It doesn’t matter what system you use or if you squeeze out every second if you’re working on the wrong thing.
EDIT: I went back and read it, I agree with most of what he says (and my original comment wasn't very relevant to this particular article), I would just add "don't stress about productivity, most of the time it's fine to just do what you like".
On a more serious note, I feel like "maximizing" "productivity" on things you are passionate about is largely wasted effort (unless the thing you are passionate about is "maximizing" "productivity")...
No, it hurts my happiness to read productivity articles, so I skip them.
i could tell you didn't read it, because if you did you'd realized you are more similar than you think.
The fact that so many see it as something else is interesting on multiple levels.
As well, there is a reason that Buddhism's viewpoints on dukkha and nirvana needed to be invented/discovered and taught (and that people struggle to learn them.) The idea that there is a happiness that exists as a state of *being8, that does not involve "doing", is not, seemingly, an instinctual belief among human beings—or even one that's very easy to convince people of.
If the task is something they enjoy and I don't, double win. If it's something no-one enjoys then I'd try to take the first batch, or at least share the pain around, if we can't automate it away.
If I'm not willing to do it myself then it gets pushed back to whoever pushed it onto me in the first place.
An athlete who wants to win races is going to run at a faster pace than he'd find comfortable if he were just going for a run.
This pattern holds true when your only opponent is the difficulty of the problem.
What is ambition really? It's almost always some arbitrary personal or social goal (have $x in bank account, make startup with $y, get title z) that rarely has any bearing on personal happiness nor making the world better for others.
My happiest memories are waking up next to someone I love, or a barbecue with friends, or an outstanding meditation, or a really honest conversation with a family member. The cult of productivity seems like, ironically, a waste of my time on earth.
After all that I could aim for the exact thing my former bullies get without trying. Job, wife and kids. But it doesn't feel like it's extraordinary enough to justify all that bullshit I've gone through.
So I live by the maxim "find something you love and let it kill you". For me that something seems to be making tools for other people. Money would be just validation that other people find my tools useful. And I want my own company to have design freedom. When you actually love your thing, doing it your way is big deal.
However, I do understand your perspective. I think it's important to strike a balance, and that this balance won't look the same for everyone.
So it does sound ideal to
> do things you enjoy, at a pace that you enjoy
but I think there's a part of life where you're consciously sacrificing immediate enjoyment for a future goal. And hopefully the future goal is to do just that (enjoy life at an enjoyable pace).
If I can be more productive, that's minimizing the time I spend sacrificing enjoyment before attaining my goals :).
What would you do if you didn't have to work? Spend more time with your wife and kids? Isn't it a bit odd to say "if only I spent less time with my wife and kids, then I could have a chance to spend more time with them in the future!"?
Spend X hours working per week to get Y hours of family time
Spend X+n hours working per week (or just X if you can find ways to be more productive) to some much larger value of Y hours of family time over some estimated larger timeframe.
It's all a gamble and about risk, but if you think you might be able to retire early in say, 10 years, and get to spend a much larger amount of time with your family (and be presumably less stressed and in a better position to support them financially) that might be worth a bit of extra hustle or focus on productivity than spending 20 years working for some similar result.
I'm being really hand-wavey with numbers, but when people think of early retirement for these reasons, that's often the thinking behind it.
There's a fair question to be raised on the quality of that time spent, particularly when you look at your health when you are younger, and the impact of spending time with children when they are young, but there's a lot of factors that people consider when weighing these questions, and I don't think it is entirely fair to judge someone because they may weigh those questions differently than you did.
For me the question isn't what would I do if I didn't have to work. The question is: What if I could have absolute control over what I do and wasn't beholden to anyone else because of rent and food and such?
That would be neat. I happen to find getting there (working more) more enjoyable than watching Netflix and other time wastey things so it works out. I enjoy my work so I want to do more of it. And I want to do less of the work I don't enjoy.
So the equation for me is more: Spend a little less time with wife/kids today to improve my future enjoyment of the work part of life.
It's a tough balance, because I highly value wife/kids time -- so when I give up some of that (valuable and well-spent) time for a potential future good, I want to make sure I'm using that time optimally, so that sacrifice is as "worth it" as possible.
There's definitely a balance here; I could make much faster progress by working every night and weekend, but that would be too much of a sacrifice of the good present for the potential better future.
Anyway, I very much agree with/appreciate the point of your questions :).
Because of this, suggestions on how to live well, make yourself into a better person, and enjoy your life are made in the name of increasing productivity. Spend time with your family, exercise, sleep properly, tackle interesting problems, work in a comfy quiet space with natural light, constantly learn new things, surround yourself with good positive people, take breaks when you're feeling the onset of burnout, experience nature, and value your time - it's okay to be happy, because you're doing it in the name of productivity!
I do think it's not good to have a culture where productivity is the end goal of everything. Yet I also think it's not good to have a culture where the first time the word "productivity" is mentioned, the reaction is repulsion (I appreciate at least your honesty in admitting you didn't read the article).
Just like the drive to work-death represents the worst part of the American stereotype, the repulsion against anything that produces work or economic value to me, represents the worse of the European stereotype (or perhaps in Thiel's terms, indefinite pessimism stereotype).
Can we admit that work isn't the end goal of society, while at the same time admitting that getting more work done in less time is a good thing?
Also, on a meta-front, shouldn't we discuss which of Sam's tips work, which don't, and which one produces a lot of unhappiness as a side effect? To me that would be more interesting.
It's unimaginable how hard some people work. If this was not the case our entire edifice of civilization would fall apart in a day. From public services to businesses who continue to run efficiently and make profits because of the hard work of their employees.
Yet there is a whole mythology which sees a special need to glorify productivity and individual genius.
This not only creates a culture of self pressure but worse manufactures an alternative reality of 'slackers', the lazy and unproductive who 'need' to exist simply to justify this glorification. In many ways perpetuating false stereotypes and exaggerating fringe behavior.
Even if you forget about the impact to company / society / civilization and focus simply on yourself, you can see that you get X hours in total and one shot at life. If you pare it down by necessary but not directly productive hours like downtime / time spent towards learning / physical-mental well being etc. You get Y which is very much lesser than X.
Some folks want to maximize the heck out of this Y just because they have so many things they want to get done OR they have chosen to listen to someone / company that tells them that they should get all of those done.
Usually maximization like that in comparison to a lifestyle that maximizes consumption is always 'pedestalized' because of a few reasons:
- historically they have moved the bottom line on many real world scenarios.
- someone else values it enough that they pay actual money for it (I am yet to find a viable lifestyle option that will pay me money :). I personally value money because it buys me time (via ability to delegate) and experiences with the limited time I have.
- When you have a ton of things you want to get done (irrespective of socio-economic impact) and little time, there is no other choice.
I agree it might be 'marginal behavior' which is what makes it so sought after. There are folks who can't get there, folks who don't want to get there, folks who will try but won't get there and a ton of mortals who will get somewhere close. In general, humans want to make a difference in some way, we see the Elon's of the world somehow making a difference and folks chase after it (hence pedestalizing). IOW your question will make more sense if we are immortal :)
However this gratuitous need to create a mythology of the 'productive' ignores that this is infact standard behavior by the vast majority, and society at large and by its very need to exist fabricates the existence of a population of slackers, the lazy and unproductive which exaggerates fringe slacker behavior and is not consistent with reality. This is what makes it toxic.
- are you asserting that people not contributing continuously/coasting by is not a thing or is only marginal or fringe?
- what is in your opinion the difference between making a living vs making a difference to the society you are in? Are they the same?
If I'm more productive in the kitchen I finish making my meals sooner. If I'm more productive at coding I finish making my personal projects sooner and I get more projects out there. I learn more. I can make more money to spend on things I care about. etc. etc.
If there were only a few things I cared about or was interested in then maybe I wouldn't be pushing so hard but there's so much to life I want to experience, see, and accomplish. I know I can't do it all but I am legit excited to do what I am capable of.
And no one can do everything in the world. So I also prioritize. But even within those priorities there's still plenty I can do. And plenty I can do to work smarter and push myself to go further.
It's like in the gym, there's a huge difference in overtraining to the point of getting injury vs just pushing yourself a good amount so that you get better results vs just grumbling your way through a slow walk. The results will reflect that.
People can set realistic goals that they have to push themselves a to get without going overboard. Personally I enjoy that because it gets me things I want. A fitter body, a better relationship with my loved ones, a lucrative career where I get to do something creative, challenging, and that can make a difference. The free time to enjoy my hobbies.
Do I need to be a billionaire? No. Do I need to be an Olympian? No. But that doesn't mean I can't be -better- than I am now.
Personally, I also have a lot of things I want to do, but not necessarily time to do them all. The more progress I make doing things I enjoy, the more I enjoy them. So productivity is important there, too.
Cynical answer: Because the person paying for your time would like the maximum return from that investment, and the need for human agency requires that we rationalize that pressure as something that originates within ourselves.
That logic doesn't quite work that way.
In a situation where employees have the balance of power, it does produce great pressure to raise pay, and you do also then see the same rationalization from the employer that it's because their employees are so great and that they're so generous. But reality is the market pressure drove it, not those things.
"I think I am at least somewhat more productive than average, and people sometimes ask me for productivity tips. So I decided to just write them all down in one place."
If you're not interested in productivity tips, maybe don't read and comment on posts that are titled "Productivity" and start with a paragraph like this? I kind of sense that you want to have a meta-level discussion on whether we should worry about optimizing productivity in the first place, but sometimes the article just isn't for you, you know?
You, by contrast, have exactly two things: 1) your idea. 2) your productivity.
That's it. Of course founders will be interested in productivity. It's all we have.
(By the way in 1 month of 40 hour weeks there are
576 000 000 milliseconds. So as long as you can do in 2000 to 20 000 milliseconds, the work of a dedicated specialist working for a month, you have plenty of extra room to personally defeat the army of 100,000 - with room to spare. And of course unlike them, you're not limited to 40 hours a week when it comes down to it ;).)
Because if you don't do it, someone will. And unless you got something else to offer, you'll lose to your competition.
Cause I know we're all heading for that adult crash
The time is so little, the time belongs to us
Why is everybody in such a fucking rush?"
Also, I've found that sometimes pushing yourself to a point of (mental) pain can actually be quite enlightening. It's admittedly rare (say, 1 in 10) but quite valuable for reasons of empathy but also understanding pain, which is a prerequisite for making a large class of really useful things.
Given that you are fairly happy already, optimizing productiveness will allow you have a greater positive impact on the world. I think this is why other commenters have mentioned that optimizing productivity can be a proxy for optimizing long term happiness.
I think a really good answer to that is in order to help other people as much as possible. Working on things that are hard or unpleasant or even don't necessarily line up with a specific long term goal in a way you can anticipate will often lead to happiness if it impacts other people positively.
I feel strongly about this topic and found the discussion here illuminating, so I wrote a short article about it and posted here, I'd welcome feedback: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16804062
Productivity porn taps into fixing one or both of these. Sometimes it's useful, sometimes not.
Also, he says you should take a break or switch context when you get tired.
And you should definitely be happy doing the thing first. If you're not happy, maybe you don't really want to be doing it. Delegate, or get rid of that task quick and dirty.
Because this maximizes your happiness. We're happiest when we produce, not when we consume or when we're idle. Think of productivity as a rate of positive change you inflict on your surroundings, or as a unit of feedback you receive from the world acknowledging your existence.
Re-arranging the world towards your views is hugely satisfying and it could be as simple as cleaning up your bedroom, working on your garden or as complex as migrating a country off fossil fuels.
If you accept this definition of productivity the rest of the blog post makes perfect sense. Why are we here? To be productive! :)
How does that fit into a definition of productivity?
I guess I am technically producing happiness, but that seems like a bit of stretch :-)
>> Some sort of sleep tracker to figure out how to sleep best is helpful
>> I take a low dose of sleeping pills (like a third of a normal dose) or a very low dose of cannabis
>> ... I use a full spectrum LED light most mornings
>> ... so I get about 15 hours of fasting most days
The whole article is productivity porn.
You can get too meta in most fields. Then you're not really improving your skills, but following very specific drama.
So that might be porn, or that might be just the regular sex you need to stay sane. I think it is the latter.
> The most impressive people I know have strong beliefs about the world, which is rare in the general population.
Is this true?
The average person is irrationally immovable on religion, politics and sports.
My philosophy on productivity:
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all ― Peter Drucker
If we're all just stating our experiences. I find that those who care, care intensely, perhaps immovably, and everyone else just floats along.
I use these orange glasses
I don't wear them every evening, but whenever I need to sleep or am having sleep troubles, it solves the problem. Great for traveling too, because you can start moving your circadian clock during the flight. You can still use the phone/computer and not worry about avoiding light.
I also use flux, nightshift, and Philips hue lights (set to orange at night) so that I can set and forget it. The glasses are the place to start though. They block all blue light and are super cheap, portable, and simple to try.
Do you know that any given barista makes minimum wage?
Do you know that any given barista has no other options than being a barista?
In two sentences, you made more unsupported assumptions than either the original article or the comment you're replying to, yet you seem to find them tone-deaf and insulting. How do you think a student working a morning barista shift for decent extra money because they enjoy coffee culture and talking to people would find your post, if not tone-deaf and insulting?
Also, while the economy isn't zero-sum, there are zero-sum aspects to it. We can't have every garbage collector suddenly become a high-end programmer or something or our system will fall apart due to piling-up of garbage. Any one garbage collector could better their lot, but until we have dramatically automated everything (and that's still a long ways off), we need people to collect the garbage.
In short: we don't have a caste system, so any arbitrary working class person can rise to higher classes. But that doesn't change the system, it just shuffles where people are. We don't have an economic system that can function without a working class.
If/when the working class gets paid better, then they can afford to invest in improving themselves more because they won't be desperate for every day's income just to survive. Some people will make poor judgments with such freedom, but others will thrive. So be it. I agree with your "who am I to say otherwise" quip as long as you aren't appealing to total-relativism.
I know lots of jerks out there parrot the victim-blaming nonsense that everyone could just be rich and successful if only they did the right things (while our whole economic system is based so much in exploitation that it's actually impossible for everyone to be middle or upper class, our system wouldn't run that way)…
So I understand taking Sam's comments in that light, but from my reading, I think it's a fair assumption he's not one of those jerks, even if he's also not one of the people focusing primarily on the injustices etc.
Regarding sleeping, I've had really bad sleep problems since I was a kid, to the point where I pulled all nighters a couple times a month just because I knew I wasn't going to get to sleep that night.
I fixed all of my sleep problems over time by taking a low dose of melatonin (1g, low doses are more effective than high doses) and wearing orange glasses at night to block out blue light. It took a while for melatonin and the glasses to work consistently, so I occasionally took sleeping pills as well, but now I go to sleep consistently without sleeping pills. I'm down to one sleepless night every 3-4 months, and it usually happens when I don't do my routine.
Regarding protein, it's likely you don't need as much as you think. Unfortunately, I don't have great resouces to cite, but I'm vegan and I lift weights 3x a week, and I never think about my protein intake. I may be a bit biased, but the things I've read say that we emphasize protein too much in our diets and don't need as much of it as we think we do (https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php). You might want to try cutting our your protein shakes to see if you really need them.
1. The idea that sugar makes kids hyperactive is a myth. In fact, eating sugar will cause a certain protein or amino acid to not go into the brain as much and cause us to feel more sleepy.
2. If you want to perform well mentally, for example for an exam, you would want to eat high protein foods. The element in situation 1 would be more present and would enhance brain function.
If I would want to be more productive, I will try to observe this in the future. I did notice that sugar made me sleepy.
Can you expand on that?
You can ctrl+f "dose" there.
"Finally, to repeat one more time: productivity in the wrong direction isn’t worth anything at all. Think more about what to work on."
The stuff in between nothing and something, especially what you don't like, could be an opportunity if theres nothing in reach that already solves the problem.
That's actually a reason to get better at these things, though--the better your fundamentals are, the less attention you have to pay to them and the more attention you have left over for actually thinking about what you're doing. When I'm coding, typing is the last thing on my mind--I just think code and my muscle memory translates it into keystrokes. And I'm a Vim user.
If you literally don't enjoy what you are doing at all, no productivity optimization can help you.