How much of your day do you actually spend being productive toward your job?

I know that everyone clocks from 8 to 14+ hours a day on the job. How much of that time do you actually spend being productive, i.e., creating models/slide decks, presenting, writing emails, working out problems, etc related to your job? 

I was inspired to ask this because I recently heard Jordan Peterson say somewhere that if you get three hours of concentrated effort done in a day, every day, you're already pushing the limits of peak productivity.  Putting aside people's opinions of him, I was surprised to hear Peterson say that since from the outside, it seems like he's incredibly prolific himself. He may well have been referring to a particular type of work, like working on an academic paper, but it still begs the question of how much are we actually getting done vs. seeming like we are?

For myself, I know that I am not being productive toward my job 100% of my work hours. On a good day, maybe 70%. Typically, I spend time checking and responding to personal emails, doing random errands,  messaging with my SO or friends, and of course, scrolling on social media/WSO. And every single day, unless I'm super busy, I read a handful of articles online (I read a lot of industry-related and finance/business news, so I feel like that is somewhat job-related but not actually helping me get my tasks done for the week).

On another thread people were talking about what they do after work is over, and some people made it seem like only after their work day is officially done is when they take care of basic personal errands like paying their bills.

I'm curious where you guys stand on this.

Comments (13)

Jun 22, 2022 - 3:47pm
WSO Monkey Bot, what's your opinion? Comment below:
Jun 29, 2022 - 4:38pm
dan_yo23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It has fluctuated for me in my various roles, but I'll be brutally honest here. I would say that in my FLDP, 2 out of my 3 rotations barely kept me busy. Some days I would do nothing at all. The busy weeks in those rotations might have been 15-20hrs, and those weeks were once or twice a quarter. Really left me feeling like my work ethic was atrophying, but I didn't know what else to do- I'd ask for more work and there just wasn't much.

My last role started off keeping me more occupied. As time went on I was able to automate more of it and that really reduced my workload. By the end, the busy weeks were 10-15 hours, and that was once a month. The other 3 weeks were probably 5-10 hours of work. Most of this was because I had become very well versed in the role and automated all the menial stuff, not really because there wasn't much to do..

In my current role, earnings time keeps me occupied all day every day. The two off months are more like 30-50% utilization, though sometimes more if we are doing some kind of M&A or conference.

Most Helpful
Jun 29, 2022 - 6:13pm
Hölder, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is interesting to think about. If you read my post history you may find out that I actually started working in Corporate Finance about 6 months ago. The first thing I would mention is that my day to day varies a lot. There are some days where I literally have absolutely nothing urgent to do and really I just start creating work for myself, and then there are days where I look like I'm playing Korean level Age of Empires with how fast I'm typing out excel commands due to having to meet an approaching deadline. Because of this variance talking about my average day would be pointless so I think it is better to think about how much of my month I spend being actually productive. I would break it up like this:

  • % of the month being ultra-productive: 10%. Here by ultra-productive I mean going as fast as humanly possible to finish something. To put this in perspective, IB folk probably have to be in ultra-productive mode 100% of the time.
  • % of the month being productive: 30%. Here I mean actually working on my defined tasks but with no oppressive deadline looming over me. Unlike ultra-productive mode I may take a 20 minute break from time to time to see what is going on in the news, WSO, etc. 
  • % of the month being vaguely productive: 30%. Here I mean that with the above 40% I'm able to finish up all of my current defined tasks. This extra 30% I spend thinking about new things I can do, improvements I can implement, etc. This may sound fun but this is actually over-thinking time so it has been more than once that a few days after finishing up something I'll find a small mistake in that during this over-thinking time. But well, an improvement is an improvement. Now next month that little detail I missed won't be missed. This state may also include extensive WSO and social media usage.
  • % of the month being barely engaged: 30%. Here I'm talking that I have everything so in control that now I have nothing to do. Literally I even ran out of new ideas to work on in the previous category. Here is where my 'work' is now browsing business and finance news and specially industry news. I like to think that this is still very useful because in just my 6 months in here I have already seen macro events that I saw first on the news end up actually impacting my company and even my direct work.

So yeah. On average how much of my day is spent on actual real work? 40%. The rest I spend thinking, planning and doing research only tangentially related to my job. Looking at that number it may sound like I'm lazy but my first performance review came out with the highest score possible. However it turns out that I did so good that now they want to give me more responsibilities. In short, a senior of mine has for the past year been taking care of a particular process and now they are giving that to me. But well, I'm not complaining because this also came bundled with a slight increase in my comp. And in the end it may just mean that a few months from now I'll bump up that ultra-productive time to 15%.

  • Analyst 1 in CB
Jul 19, 2022 - 7:06pm

Walt fuckin Whitman ova here

Jul 1, 2022 - 9:31am
pineapplechipmunks, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Back when I was more in a typical corporate finance role I'd say 1/3 was actually doing work, 1/3 personal errands / bonus projects (e.g., paying bills, researching a problem) , and 1/3 other stuff (e.g., goofing off, hanging out with coworkers, etc.). I'm pretty sure my manager knew I wasn't working most of the full 40 hours / week, but he still gave me good performance reviews and feedback.

Currently in corp dev, it depends on deal flow. During a deal (e.g., sourcing targets, building a business case, due diligence, etc.) it's probably 50-75% of the time with the remainder open for other minor tasks or just waiting for important meetings to happen. Outside of a deal it's closer to 25-50%. I'm still "online", but with WFH I can just do other things around the house (e.g., chores, working out, etc.). TBH I've gotten a little complacent having "initiative" and trying to figure out other problems to fix or tackle, but at the moment I don't really care. My performance reviews have still been good and it doesn't sound like that's stopping me from getting promoted in the future so.

Jul 1, 2022 - 4:23pm
AnalyzeANDchill, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Id have to agree with him even people i meet who I very busy and say they work all the time are not going 100 percent for 8 hours there is just no way. Now for me in the morning when I drink my coffee the majority of my work gets done from 8-12 off of my caffeine high. Id say after that I am coasting the rest of they day unless my boss gives me a strict deadline or something. Still working but it would be a lie to say 100 percent. 

Jul 19, 2022 - 7:03pm
lolusernames, what's your opinion? Comment below:

4-6 hrs/day x 3 days in office

0.5-2 hrs/day x 2 days at home

~15 hrs/wk

Note: this is nothing to do with WFH making me less productive, previously it was 

2-4 hrs/day x 5 with a LOT of time wasted reading message boards and stuff. Now I purposely do ~all my work on the days I need to be in the office with some daily tasks / meetings I can't avoid making up the 0.5-2 hrs when I am at home 


  • 1
Jul 21, 2022 - 1:29pm
Klavin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am in a very similar boat. Currently in a rotational program with high visibility. 2-3 days in the office that I use to get most of my work done. WFH days are decidedly more chill and reserved for small tasks that are not time-sensitive or that I simply forgot to do. It's a good set-up. If I wasn't motivated by an earlier retirement and/or increasing my compensation trajectory, I could see myself staying at my current company for a long, long time. 

Aug 14, 2022 - 7:41pm
WSO's Lawyer Made Me Change The Name of This Account, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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