Necessary Roughness: Could a Slapping Assistant Boost Your Productivity?

Posted by Dave Burdick

Productivity blogs can get kind of dry, so I was lured in by a post that claimed that getting slapped quadrupled a poster's productivity. I don't recommend the methodology and really, I don't think the writer does either—he's using it to make a point. 

He uses Craigslist to find someone willing to work alongside him in a cafe while also monitoring his productivity. If he's off-task, his assistant is instructed to slap him. Measuring productivity with an app called RescueTime, he found that he spent 98 percent of his time on-task, versus his usual 35-40 percent.

Without a doubt, this experiment was a success. My biggest takeaway from the experiment is this: If you add a social element to the work that you do, you will become more productive.

Honestly, the fear of the slap wasn’t the productivity driver. That just made it fun. The real reason why Kara made me more productive is because she added a social element to writing. When I was drafting the outline, I asked for her feedback. When I couldn’t think of the right way to phrase a sentence, she was there to help. Instead of it being a chore, Kara made it fun to write.

So does getting slapped help? No. Not really at all. In fact, I bet if his experiment lasted more than four hours, he'd have lost steam in the afternoon like we all do and might have fired his unorthodox muse. And some tasks are just better accomplished alone in a focused environment. 

What helps is having someone there to slap you. For people who work remotely or for themselves, it's obviously a big help. I work a thousand miles from any colleague, but when I work from home, I'm working with my wife, a freelance journalist who shares my interests. When I work from my new coworking space, there are tons of people around working on cool, purposeful projects. And I have a pretty casual online chat running with coworkers much of the time throughout the day. 

So let me ask you this: How much of your workday is social? How much is isolated? How does that balance work for you? 

Photo via Flickr (cc) user typester.