Posted on Sep 30, 2009

Do stuff

Here’s a graph illustrating a model of the relationship between doing a lot of stuff, and the amount of fun it results in:

Productivity graph

With stuff I refer to anything productive and rewarding, such as a course at school, a qualified job or a project of your own. And with fun I refer to the feeling of satisfaction and purpose that is the result of doing meaningful things.

So, what can this model tell us?

  • Do more, create something, engage in productiveness and a great feeling will follow.
  • Eliminate wasted time to give room for more personal projects, sports or arts.
  • Being overworked removes all the joy from what you’re doing.
  • Make sure to find out your personal “maximum workload constant”, to know the feeling of when there’s simply too many things going on. You’ll never want to end up getting burned again.
  • Remember where your limit is, and carefully balance your workload to stay just below the threshold.
  • The “maximum workload constant” is not constant: it can be extended to allow for an increased capacity.
  • Having too little to do is far better than being overworked.
  • When you have “almost too much to do” it’s really just the right amount of work!
  • If you’re engaged in stuff you like, and you are filling your time with it, you’ll hopefully experience flow.

Or as the Ruby hacker _why said:

when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

After all, it’s a thousand times more interesting to talk to someone that fills his time with interesting work and projects of his own, rather than someone completely defined by his music taste or belief. Experiences come through interaction with the real world, and they don’t create themselves — they need to be obtained through hard work. And a few leaps of faith.


  • Vicente says:

    Thanks for your wise words.
    I specially like the last paragraph. I’ve always felt that, but it’s hard to overcome the consumer culture.

  • Fredrik says:

    I recently heard a saying I really like. “If you need something done – ask a busy person to do it.”

    It’s very important not to step over your maximum workload constant, and I would say the optimum level to be at is two thirds up the flow-level; here you don’t risk going over and you’re still really productive.

    Have you found your maximum workload constant yet?

  • Emanuel says:

    Vicente: Thanks a lot!

    Fredrik: I found it in March this year (3 courses + work + committee). So now I’m practicing Applied No-saying to keep the balance :)

  • […] not being in school all day, but at least being busy. I think Emanuel explains it very well in his latest post (including a hand-drawn graph!) over at […]