Improving productivity

What a great way to start the week to read Dan Cook’s presentation on productivity (via Andrew Chen’s blog). His presentation summarizes key findings from a number of real-life experiments on productivity. Among them:

  • Productivity for knowledge workers drops at around 35 hours / week
  • There is always a cost for crunching (we all know this, don’t we?)
  • Productivity increases significantly for seating cross-functional teams of 4-8 people together (and closing the door)

I personally believe that in a knowledge-intensive position you are doing well if you are getting four good hours of work per day. The rest of the 8 hour day is spent on interruptions, meetings and communications (internal and external).

What’s your take – how many hours of productive work do you think you get done on the average per day?

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2 Comments on “Improving productivity”

  1. Adam Says:

    5-day working week? 35 hours a week? Says who? :)

    All the evidence keeps coming from 100-year-old studies, or things from other industries. The closest I’ve seen to anything from the games industry is lots of vague, poorly controlled, non-scientific “experiments” – Dan Cook’s presentation cites one of these, and cites the example of Ford in the 1900’s.

    IMHO, 35 hours a week is both far too long and far too short for creative people. Either you “work” more like 60 hours a week, but accept that a lot of that is “downtime” where you’re not actively working, or you work properly for more like 20 hours a week, but you’re always working when you’re “work”ing.

    I would like to see the 37.5-hour working week (standard in UK), or the 40-hour week, or whichever equivalent you like that is approx 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, die the death it deserves :).


  2. The science may very well be not very scientific, but my intuition based on 10+ years of professional experience tells me there is something very valid there. Yeah, gut feeling =).

    I don’t think it is possible for a knowledge worker to really shutdown the “work part” of their brain when they leave work. For better or for worse, you are working always, whether it is conscious or not. And yeah, you should sleep on big decisions (can I get overtime pay for that? ;-)).

    Personally looking at the projects I’ve been producing at the games industry and IT, half of the day goes to something else then “actual productive work” like coding, documenting, designing, animating, modeling. Now, that other half may well be actually very essential (a good short meeting with clear agenda can get a lot of things moving), but you can’t really plan any project using more than 4-5 ideal work hours a day.


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