NOTE: Before you read this and get all upset and whatnot. Please know that I am completely full of shit and have no idea what I’m talking about. This is just my opinion, exaggerated for your entertainment.
NOTE: My opinion is right, though.
Staying Late Does NOT Make You a Better Producer
I was having a conversation recently with a coworker on the subject of working long hours. For many who work in entertainment… or any other industry that depends on salaried employees working long hours, there is a misconception that staying late makes you a better producer. The thought is that if you are willing to stay late and put in more hours, you are more dedicated to the project at hand.
This line of thinking is wrong for a number of reasons. Here’s a few:
- Parkinson’s Law, an old adage that states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This is truth. How many of you are honestly auditing the time it takes to complete tasks? It may seem like the tasks that comprise a day’s work will take 15 hours, but if you audit your day, how much time are you actually spending on the tasks? How much time are you checking e-mail, social media, texting, or otherwise thinking about things totally unrelated to your work? If you could focus and be more efficient, you might find that 15 hours of tasks could actually be completed in 10 hours, or 8 hours, or maybe even less. This starts with adding time limits to your day. These limits can be somewhat flexible, but having discipline with your start and end times each day could make you more disciplined with the way you approach tasks.
- Inefficient Work, or spending too much time on tasks that would take someone with more skill less time to complete, is something that should be avoided. Often times the way to improve efficiency is to practice the skills employed, which means going back to the fundamentals, something you cannot do in the workplace if you are already being paid to complete high-level work. In the post-production world, if a story producer takes too long to string out, it likely means they don’t have enough skill with the editing software or don’t have enough knowledge of storytelling. If you are spending more time thinking about how to accomplish something, as opposed to what to accomplish, it means you need more practice. If you trim your 15 hour day down to, say, 10 hours, and go home and practicing editing/storytelling for the remaining 5 hours of your day, not only will you improve your skills but you will make better stuff (because all of the time you used to spend thinking about how will now be applied to thinking about what). Even a master should be spending time outside of work practicing the fundamentals. Not spending enough time outside of work practicing the fundamentals? Not a good producer!
- No F***ing Life, or spending too time at work because you don’t have much else going for you right now, is just downright sad. How could youpossibly be a good producer if you are not going out and experiencing life? If creativity is connecting different thoughts and experiences to form something new, then certainly new things cannot be formed if you aren’t going out and having novel thoughts and experiences. You need balance, of course, but erring on the side of spending too much time at work does NOT make you a good producer!
Now, I have to give a disclaimer here because I know that not everyone has a choice when it comes to their hours. Some of you are actually paid for your long hours. Others’ hours are monitored closely. God bless you if you work for someone who cares more about the hours you work than your productive output (but, also, screw them and their flawed way of thinking).
I am also a firm believer of putting in the work. I subscribe to the Gladwell thinking that states 10,000 hours are required to become a master at something. Especially when we are beginners (or assistants), we should be working as many hours as possible, and as closely as possible with high-level workers. This is the backbone of apprenticeship that is an almost guaranteed path to mastery. If you are just starting out and want to be great at something, there’s no getting around the hours.
But, when you’re somewhere in the middle and still looking to gain experience and improve, it’s more important to think about the quality of time spent working than the quantity. That is, if you’re spending 15 inefficient hours in the office, and I’m spending 10 efficient hours in the office, and 5 efficient hours at home studying/practicing the craft, our results are going to be greatly varied.
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