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Most people associate habits with bad habits.  However, there are many good habits – and these good habits can be used to improve your average speed.  Does that sound like gibberish?  Read on to make sense of it.

Habits make a better average speed

A lot of people work in blasts.  They’ll really push themselves for short periods of time, then burn out and slack off.  You can easily overtake them by just turning up each day.

The Engineering industry is known for working long hours.  It’s understandable really; there is a huge shortage of Engineers and the situation isn’t getting any better.  A lot of people take advantage of this and work as much overtime as they can – 60, 70, even 80 hours a week in some cases.

The danger of this is burnout.  Studies have shown that a 40 hour week is optimal and after that productivity drops off.  Employees get tired and quality drops.  More work then has to be done upstream correcting mistakes.

Another good example is writers.  Some authors will take a few weeks off and go off to a cottage in Provence and spend 14 hour days writing.  At the end of it, they have a book, but they are exhausted.

Then you get other authors who set themselves a target of writing 1000 words a day.  A 1000 words a day is easy.  Each of these articles on this website is between 7-800 words and that was written in a lunchtime at work.  Writing 1000 words a day would result in a book in 3-4 months of relatively relaxed writing.

Obviously, I’m simplifying it a bit there.  There is a lot more goes into writing a book.  The point remains the same though.  Just by turning up, you can start to overtake those.  It’s the average speed that matters, not the maximum speed.

Applying that to office life – once you work out your average speed, you can stick to it.  For me, 40-45 hours a week works best.  I still get my work done.  By being aware of Parkinson’s Law, I know that if I let it, work will expand to fill more time, so I ensure I stick to deadlines.  If need be, I can work more hours, as I’ve not run out of fuel.

Take Small Bites of the Elephant

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People often think that in order to achieve something big, that you need to make a huge effort.  Take the example of the writer, above.  By taking an hour or so out a day, he managed to write 90,000 words over 3 months.  He could have carried on and written more books over the coming months.  In fact, the example in James Clear’s post on this subject did exactly that.  He wrote 3 books  in less than a year.  He did this just by showing up.

Me working 40 hours a week doesn’t make me stand out from the crowd.  In fact when it comes to listening to people bragging about how many hours they work, I have nothing to brag about.  But it works for me and keeps me consistent.  I know my limits and I have a spare bit of throttle to use should I need it.

How to Improve Average Speed with Good Habits

It’s all about small increments and habits.  Habits are the key to being productive.  Start small and build it from there.

I started the habit on this website of writing one article a week.  I was struggling to do it at first, until I set myself the target of releasing an article every Wednesday.  There’s my deadline.  If I miss it I feel bad.  So I do my utmost to get it out on time.

I then extended my habit to release 2 articles a week.  A feature article on a Wednesday and an overview of the week’s reading and activities on a Sunday.  And so far its working.

This is known as habit graduation.

What Can I do?

So, here are some suggestions for how you can increase your average speed

  • If you want to stay fit, set yourself a goal of cycling to work every Friday.  After a while, up that to every Wednesday and Friday.
  • If you do all your washing at the weekend, split that up into putting on one load every evening.  If it’s a nice day, you can peg it out to dry the next morning.
  • If you always forget to do your expenses, set an appointment in your calendar for a Friday afternoon to do your expenses for that week.
  • If you struggle to find time to spend with your significant other, set up a date night once a month, or better still, once a week.

All of the above rely on building up a habit and then expanding on it.  That is the best way to improve your productivity.

I’d love to hear your stories about improving your average speed.  I challenge you to pick one activity that you would like to improve on and to tell me below in the comments.  Then in a few weeks come back and let us know how you are getting on.  I’d love to hear your stories.