Meta: I apologise if this is not of interest to most people on LW. I am posting this here anyway since I estimated there was at least a 5% chance that I would find what I'm looking for here, with minimal investment of my time.

Is anyone here tracking productivity every day? Do you have a fixed schedule? Are you debugging the causes for deviations from schedule and fixing them? What is your goal and why do you think the path you've chosen is the best way to achieve that?

I started tracking productivity last week. My last week's average was 6.20 hours per day (including weekends). I've already improved from around 3 hours a day (I'm employed as a software developer, I write backend APIs in Go for a fairly large company).

The existential dread of writing one technically unchallenging API after the next has finally gotten to me, and I want to drastically change my situation as quickly as possible. I started a side project which is making slow progress -- I don't feel comfortable revealing the specifics online, but I'm looking for someone who has a fixed schedule and tracks productivity every day (it's nice to have social feedback). So far, I've been spamming one of my friends for social feedback -- but it's really not working since he's not as dedicated.

My goal productivity wise is to hit 12 hours / day consistently (or an 80 hour week). I expect to get here faster if someone else is also doing the same thing. To be more specific, the workflow I have in mind is send a message after every 2 hours of productive work, talk about how much progress you've made, and stress test the path you've chosen with constructive negative feedback.

I realise this is not exactly balanced etc., but I've already decided I want to do this -- so please assume that the productivity goal is a fixed axiom if you decide to comment on this. Thanks!


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I used to track my productivity daily, using a spreadsheet, a bunch of journaling. The thing that made it actually work was that I had a bunch of friends who would do the same every evening, and then we would read each others daily reports and comment on them, offer support for various things, etc.

Yes, I've been tracking my productivity daily for over 6 years. I do it using a simple iPhone app called ATracker, which lets you define projects & categories and hit a button whenever you start/stop them.

I use about a dozen categories (for different types of work & broad types of leisure, also broad locations). Every week or two I export the data into a spreadsheet and produce some pretty charts and also many metrics, e.g. about how my time usage matches up to various targets.

It's kind of useful but I'm not that rigorous in keeping to the targets. Nonetheless if I start getting lax, then after a few days or weeks I can't pretend it's not happening, and the data helps nudge me back into being more productive.

By the way, I think you're being overly ambitious aiming at 12 hours of proper deep work per day. I think it's very hard to average more than about 6 hours per day over long periods.

If you start doing a similar kind of tracking, I'd be happy to share with you the kinds of charts, metrics etc. I produce, some of which aren't obvious.

For the past one and a half years I've done time tracking of work for school (and less rigorous tracking of time towards other pursuits). This was also a time period where I was training myself to be better at deep work.

My main intents for time tracking was to know how long work actually took so I'd get better at making future time estimates. Also during this time, each week I would time block out when I was going to work on what for the entire week, and I had something like a 95% success rate with that. (deviations came mostly from a mix of "I'm not in a good physical state because of an unusual reason for staying up late" (which were fixed by having enough slack to just take a nap) or a few "lost purpose/this work sucks" slumps (dealt with via realizing what felt dumb about the work and letting myself feel okay with doing the minimum))

I ask about how you're framing "productive hours". I'd generally only 3-5deep work hours in a day. I've yet to try (thought now I'm curious) but I'd be confident that I couldn't do 12 deep work hours a day. Though I could definitely do "12 hours a day that I reflectively endorse and that was all aimed towards things I care about".

What sort of "12 productive hours" are you shooting for?

Programming mostly.

I think there are people who do it (ex: John Carmack). But I used to play competitive chess when I was younger and would regularly put in 6-7 hours after school. I didn't have to pay any attention in school, but I definitely think I can achieve around 8 hours of deep work a day consistently.

12, I'm not so sure about -- but I intend to try.

My mom told me that if she wrote less than 10 page a day, she was unproductive, but if she wrote more than 10 pages, all above the tenth page was garbage, and had to be deleted next day. I don't know if this random memory will be helpful or not.

I started tracking my productivity at the beginning of this month, writing a "master plan" in order to know at each moment exactly what I should do next (okay, not "exactly" exactly, but good enough for it to in theory fill more than one day).

I realized how bad it is. Which is excellent.

I'm not sure how much to include in the plan. At the moment it is so big that if I had ultimate self-restraint and would waste not one minute of the day, I would barely get it done. It seems like that's okay, since I have sorted the activities after their priority and I have been improving since I started.

But does anybody have experience in trying out strict/less overwhel plans and observing if (and if yes, how much and in which direction) they influence success?

Having at least a plan for when to work, and being strict about that, works for me. I set alarms on my phone to work in 1 hour focussed bursts, with 15 minute breaks in between, all morning and late afternoon - it seems most people do their best focussed work in the morning; there's also that famous violin/piano student research which indicates that the best students also practice late afternoon. I reserve early/mid afternoon for light work (admin etc.)

In addition, I suggest you have a general plan for which projects to work on during a week & month, and make a daily more specific (though not necessarily detailed) plan first thing in the morning, or (better) at the end of the work day for the next day.

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