Friday, 10 June 2011

Leaving Work Early

A study published in the Psychological Review suggests that to be successful you need to leave work early. The paper - The Role Of Deliberate Practice - with its focus on learning music, reminded me of the hours of slow torture being taught pianoforte at a tender age, by autocratic nuns.

The trick evidently is to stay focussed and work at a task for short bursts of time.  Violinists who practised in the manner for 4 hours achieved more than those who slaved away for 7 hours.

This information will provide some relief to those of us who live or used to live in highrise apartments and HDB's in Singapore and elsewhere.

The strains of music practise are quite common, although in our case we were fortunate having a  piano virtuoso within earshot.

I shudder to think what might have happened if an intinerant Scotsman with a set of pipes had set up residence.

Working at a task for short bursts of time comes naturally to some people.  In Singapore I noted that the routine of many of my colleagues was:
  • to arrive early
  • fire up their computers and check Facebook was operative
  • have a break for breakfast (or eat a curry puff at desk)
  • work for a couple of hours
  • have coffee and discussion on where to go for lunch
  • two more hours of work
  • taxi ride to the 'best foodcourt for....'
  • lunch with friends
  • a couple more hours of work
  • quick trip to the staff room to see who had left kueh kueh to be shared around
  • two or three more hours of work, checking the approaching rain clouds out of the window from time to time
  • rush to catch the bus that connected to the MRT, that connected to another bus etc.
Author Timothy Ferriss stresses the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 law, which is that 80 percent of outputs come from 20 percent of inputs so I think my Singaporean colleagues are on to something.

But this is not to suggest that Singaporean are happy workers.  A recent Lumesse survey published in the Straits Times shows that "a poll of employee attitudes in 14 countries has ranked Singapore last in workplace happiness. Unsurprisingly, this correlates to loyalty to employers, where Singapore is again ranked at the rear."

While job hopping may be the norm in Singapore it is by no means universal.   Some places of work have emnployees who have spent most of their working lives with one company or institution.  The 'post bonus migration' though is set to continue for some time with the scarcity of talent in several sectors.
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