how much work should i be doing?

theory time!

as i’ve been learning about how to manage my own workflow, i’ve slowly been developing a theory about work. the hypothesis: my maximum work load capacity should be determined by the amount of heavy-thinking time i can carve out for myself.

as i have optimized and tested out my limits, i’ve noticed a few patterns.

one: i feel (and believe i am) most productive when i have multiple meaningful projects moving, but not too many. when i don’t have enough going, i seek out ways to fill my time. and then sometimes, without having noticed it happen, i will have put myself into “too busy” land. this makes me feel stressed and undermines my ability to move forward on my projects at the right speed (either the speed the projects need to move at or the speed as determined by other external factors).

two: when i feel i’ve got a good balance, i have just enough maker work (see paul graham’s piece about maker time vs manager time if that doesn’t make sense) to need to flow.

three: when i have too much going, the need for manager time is too high. collaboration requires coordinated timelines for deliverables and also the need for meetings. if each project requires some baseline of maker time + manager time, my frustration point seems to pop up when i have to do so much coordination that it interrupts my ability to make (via maker time).

ok so some parts of that are redundant i realize, but whatever. i’m going to try and watch my schedule to see if i can test out this hypothesis with myself. ​

caveat: if i’m being honest, i live in a very particular socioeconomic bubble. most of the people i know are knowledge workers. i don’t think this work capacity hypothesis can ever apply to everyone. i can already imagine that it doesn’t apply to any of my friends who farm, cook, or teach physical fitness. this way of balancing a work load might also be highly undesirable for some people. every theory has its limits (and this one is very much still under construction).