Unless we’re working at least eight hours per day, many of us don’t even feel entitled to our monthly paycheck.
Yet, I know more than a few writers and entrepreneurs who’ve improved their income and lifestyle by drastically reducing their work hours (I have experimented with this myself with some success).
So, how does that work? Why would you want to deviate from the proven standard? Isn’t eight hours the ideal amount of time to work in a day?
Here are some thoughts worth considering.
Rethinking the Hustle
The 12- to 16-hour hustle has been held as the golden standard by the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk or Grant Cardone. You can even find Entrepreneur and Forbes articles that in essence say while you can’t control much else, you can control your work ethic, and working 80 hours per week will virtually guarantees your eventual success.
As creatives and creators, we tend to side more with this type of thinking than with the standard employment model.
Having tried the hustle, though, I can honestly say it wasn’t for me. Instead of spending more time on a few priorities, I found myself adding unnecessary tasks and projects to my already too long to-do list. So, I ended up being spread out even more. I burned out too.
(I talk more about some of the changes I’ve recently made to my routine later).
I often think to myself – I can appreciate that these known experts have such an amazing work ethic (and in some cases – but not all – amazing businesses). But I feel like they could be exponentially more productive if they a) systemized, b) delegated more, and c) slept more.
SuperFastBusiness founder James Schramko suggests we return to the 8/8/8 model. Eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation, and eight hours of sleep. Even then, he says, eight hours for work is quite generous.
People often say they wished they had more time in a day. But when you split up your day into three equal parts, it’s easy to see you’ve probably got some major time leaks that could be – and should be – plugged.When you split up your day into three equal parts, it’s easy to see you’ve probably got some major time leaks that could be – and should be – plugged. Click To Tweet
If you’re in the hustle, it’s doubtful you’ve got eight hours left over for recreation. You’re probably not sleeping eight hours per night either. And that, to me, seems like a major disadvantage and a formula for exhaustion, fatigue, burnout, and even mental instability.
But eight hours of work is still quite extensive in the grand scheme of things. Let me show you my work…
Can You Stay Focused for a Full 8 Hours?
If you think you can, try it. Do deep, intensive, focused work (not light admin tasks) for a full eight hours. Lunch break allowed. See how it feels.
I’m not joking. You should give this a try, just so you can say you’ve done it and see how it differs from condensing your workday.
Codebots found that the average employee is only productive for three hours per day, or an average of 12.5 hours per week. That’s about 30% of the time they’re at work.
Now, I know I’m not talking to average people in average jobs with an average work ethic. You’re a champion, and you can get more done in less time.
But we should still come to terms with the fact that we’ve got maybe four to six good hours in us per day. We aren’t machines.
Outside of those four to six hours, we can still engage in reading, meditation, and exercise, which most would consider productive, and would likely add to their overall productivity.
Having this perspective is helpful, as it has us evaluating our task load and prioritizing what needs to get done on a given day. Which is exactly what we should be doing.
The Key to Getting the Right Things Done
I recently shared a little bit about what a day in the life of David Andrew Wiebe looks like.
I’ve already made some adjustments to my schedule, based on some of my recent reading.
First, I’ve recognized the value in what Perry Marshall calls “Renaissance Time.” He suggests spending an hour or two per day, first thing in the morning, connecting with intuition (or spirit) and reading something before Gutenberg.
(More on this in his book, Detox, Declutter, Dominate: How to Excel by Elimination – affiliate link.)
Although I don’t follow Marshall’s advice to a tee, I do set aside an hour at the top of the day for Renaissance Time. I’ll spend a bit of time meditating and spend most of the time reading. On the odd day, I might go for a walk during this time too.
The more you’ve got to do in a day, the greater the value of Renaissance Time. The takeaway? Prioritize and guard it, not matter what!
That was the first change I made. The second change I made was this:
With all my time blocking efforts, I noticed I was still trying to take on too much in a day. And maybe even being a little too rigid based on how I work best (I like working on multiple projects and multi-tasking).
Instead of saying “this goes here and that goes there,” which is still a basic structure I follow, I’ve been finding that it makes more sense to work on three things per day. That’s it.
I used to think this was a problem. Because inevitably it meant I wouldn’t get around to some priority. But then I realized that if I changed my approach, I’d make more money in less time and create more time for my priorities long term.
The first thing I work on is an article like this. The second thing I work on is an article for a client. And the third thing could be anything else I’ve got on the go – another client piece, a podcast episode, a video, some music, website work, book writing, course creation, or otherwise.
Instead of working a few minutes here and 40 minutes there on these things, I get to give a couple of hours of focused effort into just a few things. And I make more progress that way long term, even if it looks like I’m getting less done short term.
No Matter Your Ambition Level, 8 Hours Should be More Than Enough
Historian and author C. Northcote Parkinson said:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
That’s Parkinson’s Law.
If he’s right, then it almost certainly means we can accomplish more in less time.
Last year, I experimented with four-hour workdays. And while my clients didn’t seem to appreciate my efficiency (not because the quality of my work suffered, but because they themselves didn’t feel like they could pull off a four-hour workday), I found my focus sharpen like a laser. When I sat down at my desk to work, I was there to work. I systematically shut out distractions and stuck to my hours like my life depended on it.
Eight hours is a lot of time. Especially if you’re adequately systemized and are in the habit of delegating tasks you aren’t good at and don’t want to do. Even if you aren’t, you’d be quite amazed at how much you can get done in that time given half a chance.
So, when you think you’ve got eight hours of work, see if you can condense it down to four hours. If you think you’ve got 12 hours of work, try to do it in eight hours. If you’re crystal clear on what you’re out to accomplish and are deeply focused on what you’re working on, you’ll be surprised to find you can fit more work into less time.
I know that, as a creative or creator, keeping to a four- to six-hour workday can be tough. Some days you’re going to go for 12 hours. Some days you’re going to go for longer. Some days you may only work for two hours. And that’s okay.
But just remember that, after a certain point, you’re not effective. Red-eye domain name buyers usually regret their purchases after the fact. And by that, I mean your overall efficiency and judgment tends to suffer when you aren’t adequately rested.Red-eye domain name buyers usually regret their purchases after the fact. Click To Tweet
If nothing else, go back to the 8/8/8 model. Give yourself a proper eight hours of sleep. Give yourself the opportunity to have a social life. And work the other eight hours – but be disciplined, focused, and crystal clear on what you’re setting out to accomplish. You might just find you need less.
How long do you feel you can focus on work in a day? What has worked best for you?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
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