Apply Google’s ‘20% Time’ to Your Own Life

Google Inc. has long offered its coders a very compelling proposition: for one-fifth of the time they’re at work, they can do just about whatever they want.

That’s not exactly true, but that’s the basic idea behind “20 percent time” for employees. It means coders can devote a few hours each day to a personal project, pending approval by administrators.

Such “personal projects” that have resulted from the program are Gmail, Google News, Adsense and Google Reader.

The concept is so successful because it gives some of the smartest technological minds the freedom to pursue those ambitious projects that never would have gotten done if someone wasn’t paying them for the time they were working on it.

Not every employer will pay a handsome salary for doing whatever you want on company time, but these personal ambitions are important for maintaining a happy, healthy lifestyle. Ambition is one of the most important ingredients for self-satisfaction.

So try to set aside about 20 percent of your time away from work — the time spent watching TV or surfing the Web — for your own project. If you have wanted to build a birdhouse, start a blog or write a book, but you’ve been putting it off, stop reading this and start working on it!

And of course, once you finish with that, start something else. Try not to keep doing the same thing over and over again.


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