4 Timeless Productivity Lessons from Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein knew how to work hard, and he also knew when to take time off.
He once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Einstein’s curiosity drove him as a child, adult and older man to pursue scientific ideas and projects that are still applicable today, such as his famous Theory of Relativity.
His life and approach to work, as detailed by Walter Isaacson, offers many lessons if you want to become more productive.
Work Like A Boss
“Keep in mind that besides the eight hours of work, each day also has eight hours for fooling around, and then there’s also Sunday.” — Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein worked 10 hours a day, six days a week for years. He demonstrated a tremendous ability to focus on the work for extended periods and apply himself to big thinking.
Before he became a famous professor, he held a job in a Swiss patent office in Bern. He typically wrapped up his job in just four hours then began working on his scientific papers.
Today, a typical working day lasts about eight hours for five days a week, and most people can take the weekends off.
By all means. fool around like Einstein after you’ve extracted maximum value from your working day.
You might have other commitments like family, friends and hobbies, but perhaps there’s something you can stop doing or something you can do less of. If it helps, consider tracking how you spend each working day for a week using a spreadsheet.
Self-tracking will help you see where your time actually goes.
Roast Yourself like A Crocodile
“No telephones, no responsibilities, absolute tranquility…I am lying on the shore like a crocodile, allowing myself to be roasted by the sun, never see a newspaper, and do not give a hoot about the so-called world.” — Albert Einstein
I like the idea of this learned and famous professor switching off from the world and people’s expectations.
Einstein knew how to work hard, but he also knew how and when to take some time off to recharge.
You see, it’s not much of a holiday if you spend the afternoons in the sun knocking out a key report or pruning your inbox.
Instead, close and delegate as many activities as possible before you break for your holiday. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
Don’t Wait For Inspiration To Strike
“A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way…but intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.” — Albert Einstein
Einstein was famous for engaging in thought experiments whereby he imagined himself riding along a light beam and in an elevator falling from space.
In other words, Einstein didn’t wait for his Theory of Relativity to drop on top of him like manna from heaven.
Instead, because he cultivated a habit of doing the work consistently, he was able to recognize the value of new ideas when they emerged from the back of his mind.
Consider the writer who has a great idea for a story while in the shower or the executive who realizes how to act on a customer complaint while gardening.
Practice opens your subconscious to what’s possible.
Seek Out Adversity
“To dwell on the things that depress or anger us does not help in overcoming them. One must knock them down alone.” — Albert Einstein
Einstein demonstrated an aptitude for stoicism. Rather than dwelling on setbacks in his life like a difficult marriage and a career that took years to ignite, he used those obstacles as motivation to pursue his scientific ideas on the side.
For example, as a young man he couldn’t get a job at a university to support his family and pursue his scientific ideas. So Einstein took a role in a Swiss patent office.
This kind of conformity motivated Einstein to work even harder on his scientific projects and papers during his free time.
Einstein Failed Too
Einstein wasn’t perfect. He had a difficult marriage and a poor relationship with one of his children. He also spent much of his later life researching scientific theories that didn’t pan out.
These failures make him human.
I also wonder what Albert Einstein would think if he knew he’s as famous today for pithy sayings, advice and a picture with his tongue stuck out, as he is for the Theory of Relativity.
Still, when you dig a bit deeper into Einstein’s working life you can extract lessons that will help you accomplish more, faster — …and you don’t have to be a genius to do it!