The Easiest Way Ever to Boost Your Productivity

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Time is Money
Do you find chunks of your day consumed by less than productive activities? Updating Twitter? Checking Facebook? Clicking on those fascinating links posted by your friends? Checking sports scores or stock prices? Catching up on the latest hilarity from DamnYouAutoCorrect? None of these are bad things, but when you have important tasks to complete these non-essential activities can kill your productivity. It turns out there’s a quick visualization you can perform that will make you more likely to focus on your mission-critical tasks.

So what is this magic productivity booster? It’s thinking about your hourly pay rate. (Consultants, attorneys, and other hourly billers could visualize their hourly billing rate, no doubt even higher.)

Why does this work? According to researchers Sanford DeVoe and Julian House of the University of Toronto, it’s because thinking about one’s pay causes a greater degree of impatience when not making money.

DeVoe and House were actually studying how much people enjoyed leisure activities. They measured the degree to which various non-work activities made people happy, both with and without having them calculate their hourly wage. They found that,

…thinking about one’s income as an hourly wage reduced the happiness that participants derived from leisure time on the internet…

Thinking about time in terms of money can influence how people experience pleasurable events by instigating greater impatience during unpaid time.

[From Time, money, and happiness: How does putting a price on time affect our ability to smell the roses?

Subjects who listened to a pleasant song after thinking about their pay enjoyed it less because they exhibited greater impatience. Hence, as funny as that cat video is, you are likely to find it less appealing when you think of the value of your time. And the bizarre sightings displayed on PeopleofWalmart.com can be mesmerizing, but should be less so with hourly income priming.

There’s one small catch in the research findings: the subjects weren’t being paid during their leisure time. When, in another experiment, they were offered compensation for the time spent on leisure activities, their impatience declined. While entrepreneurs and hourly billers (honest ones, at least) would likely exhibit the impatience effect found by the researchers, it isn’t clear how salaried workers (who are still being paid while goofing off) would be affected. On one hand, they are indeed getting paid while they check baseball scores or place eBay bids. On the other hand, they know those activities aren’t part of their compensated duties and might well show at least some of the impatience effect observed in the experiments.

Now, I’ll boost YOUR productivity…

With that as background, I’ll help you get more productive right now. Just follow these two simple steps:

  1. Calculate your hourly rate of pay; feel free to estimate if it’s irregular because of commissions, bonuses, etc.
  2. Write the value down on a sheet of paper, sticky note, etc., and place it where you’ll see it.

Getting impatient yet? Then stop reading blogs (even good ones!) and get back to work!

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18 Comments

  1. Caroline Winnett says

    I just calculated how much it cost me to read this article. Definitely worth it!

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Glad to hear that, Caroline, I hope that’s not a reflection on the low value of your time! 😉

      Roger

  2. nalts says

    This also works wonders to ruin a vacation.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Nalts, you are right on the money (pardon the expression)! That was the basic point of the researchers, though of course they looked at activities of much shorter duration. Vacation angst is probably increased by other factors, too, like knowing that some things aren’t getting attended to and that a backlog of work is piling up.

      My own solution for reducing vacation stress is to spend an hour every day or two attending to as much as I can remotely. Some people think this defeats the purpose of a vacation, but I find it helps me enjoy the other 23 hours of each day more.

      Roger

      1. [email protected] says

        Good thinking. I think that one hour would draw me in hopelessly.

        Roger- two interesting things for you:

        1) I’m reading Habit and thinking of you frequently. So far it’s less applied than your content, but interesting.
        2) I actually forgot I read this post, and curiously clicked the title in e-mail. Please do not get excited by that click. It cost me $12 of time, and brought you nothing. 😉

  3. jlundholm
    Twitter: jlundholm
    says

    When I was working for an employer I found that thinking of my hourly pay made me less inclined to spending time in non-productive activities (or more inclined to rationalizing why a funny cat video was needed for my job). Now as an independent consultant I tend to price my services by the job, rather than by the hour, and that tends to keep me focused, since once the job is completed my time is my own, plus the quicker I complete a project, the more per hour I make.

  4. Jim Antoine
    Twitter: JimiAntoniou
    says

    Personally I think that thinking about my hourly payment, is making me nervous… I know that in order to make the money I want, many, many hours must pass by.
    On the other hand thinking about my salary coming closer to me day by day. makes me more productive nonetheless. I must stress out that a good salary is sometimes what makes a good worker. A low one, lower than what is expected, is a ticket to productivity disasters.
    Thank you!

  5. BracingSystems says

    This is a great motivator for the self employed. All of the time lost could be used to complete tasks, and thus make more money in less time.

  6. Nasrul Hanis says

    An inspiring and practical advice! I’m trying to boost my productivity by projecting my monthly income through my current effort on online writing.. looks like your advice can help a lot.

    Thanks for sharing pal! 🙂

  7. nauman says

    i think on web one must set a day or some hours dedicated for reading stuff, this can save a lot of time that is wasted on searching and reading things daily.

  8. Samuel says

    Yes, everything you wrote here is spot on. When I work, I think about it in terms of hourly pay. In fact, I set my iPhone to hourly increments by using my alarm. Having my alarm go off every hour helps to keep me on track. You are correct in that Facebook, Twitter and checking emails are huge time killers. Thinking about my work in terms of hourly pay helps to get back some of that time.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Glad it helped, Samuel. I’m working on it too!

      Roger

  9. Laura Grace
    Twitter: lauragrace42
    says

    I stopped reading in the 4th paragraph to get back to work (after pausing to let you know in the comments). Nice job!

  10. Bishal Biswas says

    Hi Roger,

    Thanks for the awe-inspiring article, perhaps now-a-days people are frustrated and overwhelmed as because they have already killed their productivity just as because they are stuck’ed off in the social media sites.

    Well, as of now, people are really addicted to these social media sites and perhaps they have a intention to look back to their status for likes, shares, or even new updates in about 5-10 minutes (once they’ve already closed). And, it repeat.

    The best way is- by having a proper schedule, which can help boosting the productivity and staying focused on the work we’re trying to.

    Perhaps, thanks a lot for the compact article. Have a great weekend ahead.
    – Bishal Biswas

  11. spotmagicsolis says

    By looking at your post date, I can see that this article (or one like it ) must have influenced Seth Godin’s blog from last month 😉

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      If Seth keeps ripping off my stuff, I’ll have to take action… 😉

  12. PaulB says

    But is impatience the right driver for productivity? Obviously it works in the short term, but it seems like it would put me in the wrong frame of mind to do my best work…

  13. Julie Austin says

    I think when I find myself mindlessly watching funny cat videos I’m really just procrastinating without knowing it. Thinking of it in terms of being on the clock will certainly snap me back to reality. Thanks for the post, but time to get back to work. Time is money…

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