Why working x hours a week is nonsense

I just read this article claiming that Marissa Mayer said that working 130 hours a week is what made Google successful in the early days. Whether she said it or not is not important because the very concept of saying you work x hours a week makes no sense.

I tend to get into work most days between 9 and 9.30 and leave between 6 and 7. Then I’ll often do an hour more in the evening. So apparently I work about 50 hours a week. Except I don’t.

By the time I get in, I’ve done a bunch of other things like dropping my kids to creche. But before I ever get to the office I’ve read and sent a few emails. I’ve also thought a bunch about my day, and the content in those emails. Then on my cycle in I’m thinking more about work.

In the office I’m usually all-in all day, but like anyone, now and again there are jokes to be had and some idle chit chat. And I go for a coffee here and there. When I count what I work, does the thinking on my bike count? The chit chat not count?

But more importantly than all that, the single most important thing for anyone in a product or design role to think about (and honestly in many other roles), is to not think about anything at all. To let your subconscious work hard, synthesizing all it has taken in. The best work I do is often not even accessible to my conscious brain. The best work I do happens far away from an office or desk. Does that count in the number of hours I work?

So the whole idea that you can measure the hours you work, or that it means anything at all, is just nonsense. Oh and by the way, to do great work, sleep a lot every night. 😴😊

Written by

VP of Product @Intercom. Before that PM, UX, Design at Facebook, Google, Dyson. I like building things with others. Wrote a book http://amzn.com/0321804112

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