How much would you say you work?

From the New York Times Economix blog:

Americans tend to overestimate how many hours they work in a typical week by about 5 to 10 percent, according to study published in a Labor Department journal, with the biggest exaggerators being people who work longer weeks.

The typical person who reported having worked 40 hours, for example, actually worked closer to 37. The report found that “The greater the estimate, the greater the overestimate”; people who said they worked 75 hours actually worked closer to 50 hours. At the other end of the spectrum, people who worked relatively few hours (under around 25) actually tended to underestimate their hours.

Several years ago, I installed RescueTime to start quantifiably tracking my computer usage. The results were eye-opening to me. I learned:

  • I spend much less time on the Internet (RSS and social media) than I would have guessed. Quantifying that was a big relief.
  • The above estimates are reasonably consistent with the personal data I collected during graduate school. I attribute this to:
  • There is an upper bound on the amount of hard concentration you can employ in a given day. You can’t be always-on and firing at full capacity. Besides the primary knowledge work that requires full attention, there’s email and other administrative things to accomplish. If you are “working” in your office for 8 hours a day, two 3-hour blocks of hard focus on your actual knowledge work (research, programming, writing, non-email) is probably a reasonable goal.
Source: You Don’t Work as Hard as You Say You Do by Catherine Rampell The New York Times

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