March 5, 2023
5 min read
Working three hours per day is enough to be an effective full-time remote employee, but this may not apply to all types of knowledge work. As a project manager, you are more likely to work long hours since you should know a lot about the project by attending meetings and gathering information through constant messaging. In contrast, as a programmer, you may only need to close a few tickets per day that often include most of the necessary information, meaning all you need to do is to get into a focus state for a few hours and be productive.
Many professions offer high compensation for just a few hours of deep work, but I can only speak from a software developer perspective since that is what I've been doing my whole career, and most of my friends are doing it for a living. I also just happened to have a time-tracking app as a side project, and I've been using it since my first job, so those three hours are not a random number but an average I've extracted from years of tracking time with my Increaser app.
On average, I work 30-35 hours per week, including weekends, but only half of that time belongs to remote work. The rest goes to side projects that don't generate income, such as my YouTube channel and productivity app. In retrospect, I could've worked at a second remote job instead of pursuing these "self-actualization" projects and would've been retired in Georgia by now. Yet, I am also aware of my personality. Having one remote job stresses me out sometimes, and replacing side projects with another job wouldn't make me happier. At the same time, I completely understand why more people pursue having multiple remote jobs. Money loves speed, and investing a second paycheck in the right vehicle could improve your finances and overall well-being in the long term.
If you are starting your career, keep work hours as a significant variable as you pick a profession or skillset, but if you are already in the right field, let's continue with practical ways to work less. According to Andrew Huberman, the best duration for focused work is around 90 minutes. While you can improve your ability to focus through different protocols, quality sleep, and consistent physical activities, most of us are limited to two or three 90 minutes blocks of work per day. Try doing more than that, and you'll quickly experience diminishing returns in productivity.
Using 90-minute blocks is an effective way to be productive while working less. You can allocate two blocks for work and one for your side projects to win the game. The 90-minute block does not have to be one uninterrupted work session. Instead, you can divide it into a few sets with less than ten-minute breaks. The block doesn't have to be 90 minutes, but it's a good target. After one such bound of work, it's good to have quality decompression time for at least 30 minutes where you are not focusing on anything specific and give your mind quality recovery time, be it cleaning the house, cooking, or exercising, but try to escape using phone or checking social media.An easy scheduling technique to consistently finish work early is to do 90 minutes block before breakfast and one after. That way, you will also get health benefits from intermittent fasting by pushing the first meal to later in the day.
It's easier to have long deep work sessions when you are independent, and there's no need to collaborate with other people. Yet when you are part of an organization, it leads to more time gathering information through meetings or messaging. The goal is to reduce this type of shallow work to a minimum by being proactive about removing unnecessary calls and being a better communicator through text messages. If you can't affect the company culture and they prefer having lots of synchronous communication, you may consider finding a better job. Another thing that can hinder deep work sessions is missing information to proceed. Being proactive about removing potential blockers in advance by gathering the data and thinking a few steps ahead will save you time.
So, now you can finish work before lunch, what will you do with all this free time? Without having anything interesting besides work, there is less push for optimizing time and being disciplined about these 90 minutes blocks. Technology will only improve, and eventually, with the help of AI, we only need to work one hour per day. It's great for people with a bunch of interests besides work. Yet, At the same time, some of us like to work, and extra free time might create existential anxiety, and that's where an entrepreneurial activity or hobbies might come into play. To go from talk to action, check out increaser.org to get going with these 90 minutes blocks.