I did a simple poll of HN a while back. Here is the result:
It's a normal distribution around 4-8 hours. There's no correlation with hours worked to seniority.
Poll language here: https://strawpoll.com/47x15cf1
I specifically included meetings, etc, in the time counted.
If you took anecdotes from office workers IRL you'd think everyone was in the top quintile. You can argue that its an unrepresentative sample (people browsing HN) but I'd postulate that people not on HN are using downtime elsewhere.
And I'm not convinced the 8+ people are being more productive with their time (as per my busy work note in the other comment). Anecdotally, the people who most complain about being busy seem to be the least impactful.
Richard Hamming says:
You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode's office and said, ``How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?'' He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, ``You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years.'' I simply slunk out of the office!
What Bode was saying was this: ``Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.'' Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode's remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this.
On this matter of drive Edison says, ``Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.'' He may have been exaggerating, but the idea is that solid work, steadily applied, gets you surprisingly far. The steady application of effort with a little bit more work, intelligently applied is what does it.
Imagine you truly were an outlier. One of those 10x guys. If you were that good, why would you choose to work more hours? So you could get 15 times as much done in that one day instead of just 10?
Put the way you did, the natural conclusion to draw would be that outliers would be the guys getting their thing done in fewer hours, while the average guys trying to fake it would need to stay late.
Because you have a high drive and are intrinsically motivated. Because you find your job satisfying, want to get rich, famous or make a life saving discovery etc.
In my opinion burnout comes from working long hours in a job you don't really care about. There are plenty of people who don't burn out from working hard, they just have really unbalanced lives.
Because you have a neuro-atypicality that means you prefer to stick with one thing for many hours.
Neuro-atypicality that means you prefer to stick with one thing for many hours usually have you preferring routine and well organized predictable structure.
Not for long. Overworking always rewards you with burnout.
I once worked at a job I didn't really enjoy, and I worked 8 hours during the day and often 4 hours coding on my side projects. What's the difference between that and coding 12 hours doing something you love?
After that I was working in a company, 14-16 hours per day, 6 days per week. After 2 years of such work, at the end of the day I had to spend 5-15 seconds to remember names of my wife and son, my address.
So I decided to never work more than 8 hours per day, preferably less. And you know what? My earnings increased, my relationships with employers are much better now, my health is MUCH better. So I can say for sure - overworking is a waste of lifetime and gives nothing.
Nobody should be forced to work long hours but if they want to, and it works for them - go for it I say.
I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes