Work less, make more

Maybe this doesn’t apply when you’re trying to juggle a 9-5 job and writing or you’re a writer with a baby on your arm half the day, but there is an argument that the number of hours you work does not equal the amount you get done.

A properly dry academic research paper by John Pencavel looked into it and 25 pages later concluded:

This re-examination of the recommendations relating to hours of work of the HMWC finds them
broadly consistent with our analysis: at the levels of working hours in 1915 and 1916 during the War, hours reductions would have had small or no damaging effects on output; those weeks without a day of rest from work had about ten percent lower output than weeks when there was no work on Sunday holding weekly hours constant; night work was not less productive than day work and, indeed, may have been slightly more productive.

The Productivity of Working Hours – discussion paper no. 8129 – John Pencavel, Stanford University and IZA (April 2014)

That link is to the full PDF of the research paper so only click it if you’re really interested in this stuff to academic detail.

If you’re not, it boils down to how working 55 hours can achieve the same results as working 70 and I think we knew that. We ignore it and press on into the night, but the quality of our work and the speed drops stone-like after a while.

So don’t do that, okay?

Via LinkedIn and

TextExpander, again

You know when you hear of something, you seem to keep hearing of it? Everywhere? I don’t know why this would be the case with TextExpander this week, since I’ve been using it for months, but it is. Many, many times this week I’ve read of a new use for this software or I’ve learnt how it can help me.

I’ve mentioned TextExpander a lot too. It’s software for Apple gear – utterly fantastic on Mac, less so on iOS – which lets you type a short code and have that be automatically replaced by as much text as you like. I use it for signing off emails; I don’t like signatures but if I’m sending to this person, I’ll have TextExpander pop in that sig.

I use it in the writing of The Blank Screen email newsletter every week: to include video in that, you have to remember a set of codes and I don’t. I used to have close the latest newsletter, open up the last one, copy the codes out, then reopen the latest one and paste. Now I just type the letters “xembed” and, bing, it’s all typed out for me.

But those codes represent maybe half a line of typing. It’s not long, it’s just difficult to remember. My signatures range from one word (“William”) to a couple of lines with my contact details. Now Academic workflows on a Mac has shown how to use this to write entire letters:

The time it takes to write recommendation letters usually increases dramatically with the years spent teaching in a University. This is not a responsibility that should be ditched: many former students – especially those applying for academic positions – deserve glowing recommendations which should be hand-crafted and long. Even in this business Mac automation tools such as TextExpander can take care of the routine and let you focus on creative and important parts.

I almost always conclude my letter with a standard phrase which looks as follows:

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about Anton‘s competencies or Lund University.
Thank you for your attention in this matter and I wish you to select the best recipients of your scholarship.
Aleh Cherp

TextExpander for Writing Recommendation Letters – Aleh Cherp, Academic Workflows on a Mac (17 July 2014)

Cherp has one TextExpander snippet, as they’re called, which spits out all of that but with options. You’d hope so, unless Cherp only teaches students named Anton. But take a look at the full piece for how it’s done – and if you’re already a TextExpander user, you’ll find the complete details for how to do exactly this yourself.

And if you’re not a TextExpander user, go get it and change that.