You only get one life, and no matter how much you enjoy your job, no one wants to spend over half their life working. I bloody love what I do, but I also want to make time for the other things that give me pleasure, and working for too many hours turns my brain to mush.
Fortunately, I am in a position where I can play around with my working hours and run little experiments to see what’s most productive. I have been working with a fantastic life coach, who has encouraged me to try different ways of working (I will get around to writing about my life coaching experience soon).
The first thing I needed to overcome was the guilt of only working four hours. Society has told me that I need to slave away for nine hours a day for five days a week, otherwise I won’t achieve anything, or worse, I might be lazy. However, that’s most certainly not the case.
Some people can get far more done by actually working less hours. Other countries are trialling shorter working days and weeks, so why can’t we? Some forward thinking businesses are playing around with short and sharp working hours, and getting surprising results. I have tried it recently, and here’s how it went.
What did I achieve?
You know what, even I have been surprised by how this has played out. I thought that maybe I might end up wanting to work four hours once a week, but now, I think it may even be beneficial to do it more. You see, on the days where I have only worked four hours, I have smashed my daily targets.
As a copywriter I have a quota of stuff I need to get done each day, in order to earn enough money to live comfortably. I assumed I wouldn’t get anywhere near these targets by working four hours, but in fact I surpassed them. Why?
I think it is because when I work an eight or nine hour day, I feel like I have more time to waste. I sit at my computer browsing random sites, social media and letting myself get distracted by numerous emails. I think to myself, it’s fine as long as I get the work done, when really all I am doing is unnecessarily prolonging my working day.
Cut out all the crap you do that wastes time, and you will obviously get more done. However, you can’t work solidly for nine hours or you will self-destruct. It’s incredibly hard to concentrate for that long.
I also found that knowing you are only doing four hours makes you way more motivated and focused. The pressure of getting things done in a shorter time means you are more likely to work harder. I felt like an absolute machine, churning out an impressively high number of words in a short space of time, but still producing high quality content. Yay for me.
How did it work?
I didn’t just sit down in the mornings and do hour hours straight. If that works for you then fine, but I have found it easier to break it up a little. I’m not that productive in the morning so I do other things for a few hours such as yoga or walking the dogs. When trialling four hour days, I would sit down at around 11am and work for two hours solidly. Any distractions were completely ignored and I literally worked my ass off for 120 minutes.
Then I would take a decent break. In order to smash another two hours, I felt I needed to switch off for a bit and refuel. So I would have a lunch break, maybe take the dogs out again or simply chill out for a while. Then after a break I would start the next two hours and remain extremely focused. The best thing about working four hours is finishing early, and then being able to enjoy a really long evening, which then enables me to switch off properly and wake up more refreshed the next day.
Will it stick?
I’m not 100% sure. I still can’t get over the guilt thing. Saying I have worked four hours seems like such a small amount, even if I know deep down just how much I achieved. I do however think I will manage to do the four hour thing at least once a week, which may be only a small change, but to me it’s revolutionary. I find it tends to work best on the days that you feel like you need a bit more of a relaxed approach to work, and it’s impossible to do on days where you have 27373 deadlines and a million things to do.
I’m by no way suggesting that everyone should try this. I think you need to be in a position to be able to do it in the first place. For a lot of people, at this moment in their lives, working four hours each day just wouldn’t cut it. But if you have the flexibility to give it a go, why not at least try it? Do you really want to live out your working life, and then realise you couldn’t have got just as much work done in half the time? I think not.
If are open minded to this experiment, then please give it a go, and let me know how you get on. It could be a life changer.