[Question] If I’m 20% less productive, do I have 20% less expected impact?

For a personal decision, I’d like to know if a person’s expected impact is roughly proportional to their hours worked (keeping output per hour fixed). Suppose the decision would make you work x% fewer hours on useful things but keep your performance in the remaining hours the same—you won’t be more rested. The 20% just goes into work that’s not helpful for career capital or impact. In other words, you’re x% less productive. Does that mean you have roughly x% less expected impact?


One reason your expected impact may decrease by >x% is that personal impact is (supposedly) heavy-tail distributed across people. To be in the heavy tail you’d need to be roughly at your highest productivity. So being x% less productive could reduce your expected impact by well over x%.

More than x% impact loss seems intuitive when you consider large x. Say you reduce your work time by 70%, and keep your productivity in the remaining 30% fixed. This seems to almost completely kill your chances of becoming a heavy-tail top performer in your field as you won’t be able to invest in yourself enough to stay competitive.[1][2]

On the other hand, your impact depends on other factors than the quantity of your work: talent and luck. In fact, talent and luck may be the main reason why impact is seems heavy-tailed. This view suggests that, if you work 20% less, your chances of being in the heavy tail don’t change much, and your expected impact decreases only by ca. 20%.

Edit: The answer seems to depend on the career path. In this case it’s academic research or startup founder.