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Reducing commute and other wasted time is probably still the low hanging fruit for most people. If your work is sufficiently varied, I don't see how 60-80h/wk is unsustainable at at least 1.5x the work you'd accomplish in 40h, if (and only if) the other hassles of life are taken care of for you -- no cleaning, commute time, etc.

I don't think I could do a single task for 80h/wk productively, but I could certainly do my primary job for 40-60h/wk productively and then spend 20h/wk doing meetings with users, conferences, etc.




Without belaboring the obvious: 80h/wk is over 13 hours each day of a 6-day workweek. Assuming 0.3h/day exercise (across the week) and 6h/day of sleep, you're left with 4-5h/day for everything else in your life. This is obviously a tradeoff you'd want to make iff everything else in your life is not something you want to allot any time.

Edit: This reminds me of a discussion a friend had with the partner at the white shoe firm where she worked at the time. The partner said "...friends, family, and outside interests are all important. But you have to decide between them and success here." Obviously a paraphrase; this was ~10 years ago.


That "everything else" includes eating, commuting, grocery shopping, and all the other non-fun stuff we must get done. And that's considering 6h/day of sleep, which is insufficient for most people.


Setting aside whether 60-80 hours per week is sustainable (and I think it's not for most pople, except perhaps for 20-somethings and people with hypomania), the research this article references says that there isn't a 1-to-1 correlation between hours and output. That's the whole point.

"... increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours) does not result in 50 percent more output (as Henry Ford could have told them). Most modern-day managers assume there will be a direct one-to-one correlation between extra hours and extra output, but they’re almost always wrong about this. In fact, the numbers may typically be something closer to 25-30 percent more work in 50 percent more time."

From about 1/3 down in the "The Overtime Exception" section.


Yes, but the study seemed fairly focused on single task performance. I don't think I can do a single task for even 40h/wk (maybe 20-30, tops), but running a startup or being dev/devops at a fast growing startup involves a lot of varied tasks. Performance on these doesn't really draw from the same pool.


But again the results this article cites point in the opposite direction:

"... research shows that knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than manual laborers do — on average, about six hours, as opposed to eight."


"Knowledge worker" in a study cited from Alternet is probably "programmer at a large soul-sucking corporation." Startup founder is fundamentally different.


Why? What is different?


Motivation.

Motivation to build what you really want to build is completely different from being motivated to work for a salary to avoid starvation and keep your family going.


Motivation, and particularly knowing exactly how the work you will do will benefit (yourself, your friends, your company, the industry, society).

I imagine it's a lot easier being a doctor who is actually helping individual people squeeze in one more patient, vs. spend overtime filling in paperwork. Same difference between working on an awesome product where you have total visibility into the whole process, vs. beng a cog in a much larger wheel.


Not only does overtime not give you a linear increase in performance, but in my personal experience overtime it decreases overall performance.

I work at a small programming company where gratuitous overtime is the norm as a project closes. By the time things calm down again, we're so stressed out that our productivity probably falls by 50% or more for weeks to come. And the cumulative effect after years of this is even worse. I don't think the boss (also an overworked programmer) has yet to come to appreciate this daunting reality.


Please tell me you're arguing to convince them of the error of their ways or looking for a new job if you've already failed to convince them?


But should you? Your employer will not reward you for it with anything that could be considered reasonable when compared to the value you are creating for them.

What people can do, and what employers are willing to pay for, are two very different things. Employers, by and large, have adopted a strategy of paying employees as little as possible, divorcing their compensation from the value of their work. Capitalism says that employers should receive as little work of as little value as possible in return.


I'm not sure where your definition of Capitalism is coming from, but nothing about capitalism or free markets requires (or even predicts) that workers will be paid commensurate to the value they create.

Workers are paid based on supply and demand. If moving a pile of manure from one side of a parking lot to the other will net me $100,000,000, that doesn't mean the laborer I hire to move the manure will share in the value created by moving the manure. This is because the pool of laborers willing and able to do the job is roughly 4 billion people (or more accurately, tens of thousands of people in the immediate vicinity). Competition ensures that a laborer will be willing to move the manure for (roughly $15/hour here in Southern California), regardless of the ultimate value the work produces for me.

On the other hand, if a Steve Jobsian/Jony Ive figure creates a series of industry dominating products from whole cloth, he may get to share in a huge percentage of the value created by those products, simply because there are only a handful of people on the planet capable of creating those products, and thus the employer is willing to pay his $100,000,000 salary.


I think both of your examples highlight exactly what the OP was talking about, that employees are not paid based on the value they produce. In both examples, some employer stands to make much more value off of someone's labor than what they will pay that employee. Businesses and capitalists are looking to gain more profit and value than what is reflected in someone's salary -- this is the way they accumulate more resources than those workers. This accumulation of wealth is typically backed by hierarchy and authority structures that maintain that the employer continues to get more value out of someone's work than the employee(s) participating in that work.

Like you said, there's nothing about capitalism that says it should do otherwise, but I think for me that shows how unethical capitalism is in how it treats the output of others.


Ah. Perhaps my point was too subtle then. More bluntly, I was trying to say that there is no ethical duty to pay employees solely based on the value they produce. If there were, markets could not function. There is no conspiracy to "divorce employee's compensation from the value they create" as otakucode states.

By definition, free trade happens because each side believes they are receiving more value than they are paying. In my example, the manure owner who pays his laborer $15 an hour and the board of directors who pays the Steve Jobsian figure $500,000 an hour both believe that what they get in return is worth more than the money they pay. This is why they enter into the transaction.

>This accumulation of wealth is typically backed by hierarchy and authority structures that maintain that the employer continues to get more value out of someone's work than the employee(s) participating in that work.<

And from the other side, the laborer who exchanges his time for $15 per hour and the Steve Jobsian figure who exchanges his time for $500,000 an hour both "continue to get more value out of" the money the employer is paying them than they would otherwise get out of their other options. Again, this is why they agree to exchange their time for money.

Again, this all boils down to supply and demand (plus value). If there are millions of laborers that can perform any task, the price to perform that task will always be low, no matter how much value the task ultimately generates. (I say plus value because, even if you're the only person in the world that can do something, if nobody wants that thing done (i.e. no value is created) then no one will agree to transact.)


smh... that doesn't jibe with reality. Reality is that there are different people, with varied skills, and the economy demands different people and skills at different times, in different places. There are barriers of culture, race, language, gender, national border, laws, family, and so forth.


In a sufficiently supply-constrained field, assuming performance can be measured, your reward can be fairly closely correlated with the value you contribute.

The lack of correlation is primarily due to inability to measure contributions vs. an effort by employers to selectively screw high achieving employees. If you had perfect visibility into the current and future contributions of employees, it actually would make sense to pay the 10x employee 10x more than the 1x employee (and arguably being able to make a team of 5 x 10x employees would be worth way more than the equivalent salaries of 50 regular employees, since a 50 person team would be so large as to have 2-3 layers of management, much higher support costs, etc., so just paying the smaller team 10x as much would be a bargain.)

For a variety of reasons this isn't really done directly with cash compensation (taxes, measurement, supply shortage, envy of other employees, politics with managers, etc.), but rather by the 10x teams being startups which may get purchased.


If everyone had your attitude, then employers would be justified in paying as little as possible. Thankfully my experience has been that most co-workers don't try to provide as little value as possible, and most employers actively try to reward value (with varying success at evaluating it).


> If your work is sufficiently varied, I don't see how 60-80h/wk is unsustainable at at least 1.5x the work you'd accomplish in 40h, if (and only if) the other hassles of life are taken care of for you -- no cleaning, commute time, etc.

Although driving may also tap into it, the issue is mental burnout. Cleaning or eating doesn't take mental capacity, thinking does and that is in short supply (as the article notes, study show there's about 6h of good thinking per day in an average individual). Yeah might be able to "productively" work 80h/week if half that was cleaning the toilet... why?

> I could certainly do my primary job for 40-60h/wk productively and then spend 20h/wk doing meetings with users, conferences, etc.

No, you might think you do.


"I don't think I could do a single task for 80h/wk productively, but I could certainly do my primary job for 40-60h/wk productively and then spend 20h/wk doing meetings with users, conferences, etc."

What experiments have you performed to validate this hypothesis?


If you can kill commute time, doing 50h is not much different than a normal person doing 40h. Figure another 10 for being sufficiently senior (founder at a startup).

The recreational activities I seem to seek out in the remaining time, even without any external pressure, are all startup related. I don't know which are considered in scope as "work" vs. "recreation". If I had a choice of watching TV or talking to people about their YC applications, I'd probably do the latter. If I had the choice of reading The Economist or a great startup post-mortem, the latter. Play Battlefield 3 vs. take apart a competitor's product.. Talk to someone about sporting events of the local team vs. talk to someone about what I'm working on...

I've never been able to do 80h/wk on a single task for more than 3 weeks without dramatically worse productivity and burnout, but the mixed time use works fine, at least for me.

I guess I could try working (in the most inclusive definition) for only 40h/wk. I did that for a while when living in a diving location, spending the rest of my time diving, and it didn't feel better; I missed having enough time to do things, but maybe I got more work done per hour.




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