Work less: Why I changed to a four hour day

- September 30, 2006 3 MIN READ

My four hour day started innocently enough. There was no revolutionary zeal nor aspirations to the loafer’s lifestyle. My idea to work less came simply from my desire to more fully enjoy my work.

One of the myths of being a solo business owner is that you have an unbridled amount of freedom.

According to the myth, you spend leisurely days in coffee shops or at the beach, occasionally checking your email or bank balance to revel in the glow of your entrepreneurial brilliance.

While it’s true that you do have flexibility in relation to how and when you work, often the reality of solo business ownership means doing everything from paying the bills to service delivery.

My business recently got to the stage where the only thing growing was the To-Do list and at the end of the week I was exhausted and wondering if I’d actually done anything productive.

Something had to change.

Now, it seems to go against logic to cut my working hours and work less in order to get more done but when I examined how I was filling my days I found that I was only doing about three or four hours “productive” work. The rest was what I referred to as “fluff” or simply the case of reacting to crises rather than actively managing my workload.

I decided that if three or four hours is what I do “naturally” then perhaps I go with this and work for four focused hours a day (without interruptions). The other four to eight hours I could dedicate to things that actually fuel me and enhance my life.

Want more articles like this? Check out the time management tips section.

A few things had to change. I’d noticed that a number of friends who had businesses as well as full-time jobs were very good at “doing the essentials” and getting great results.

Motivated by their example, I looked at my own essentials. What did I really want at the end of the week (month, year) and what did I need to do to get that? Especially, what were my strengths? And the non-essentials had to go, or be reassigned to non-work hours. There was a lot of unsubscribing to email lists as my quest for new marketing ideas had to be tempered.

To make this all run smoothly, I had to be firmer with my boundaries and my schedule. No booking clients throughout the day. I now had “client mornings/days”.

I have to admit that as I was putting the barricades up around my four hours of super performance, I was wondering if this was really going to work. Would putting such obvious structures in place make me feel boxed in? I had concerns, but I wanted to give it go and find out for myself.

Initially, it was a breeze. The novelty of “only working four hours a day” had me flying through work in the morning, and cruising through the afternoon able to ponder such dilemmas as green tea or black tea; go to the gym or read a book. Okay, realistically, it involved less exotic activities such as grocery shopping and washing. I am still a work-from-homer. Still  I embraced the doing and the not-doing phases of the day with equal gusto.

Then, little hurdles began to appear. Some projects were taking a little longer than expected; I was needing to fit in with the work schedules/habits of others; and I was not quite sure whether the 45 minutes driving to a meeting was work or non-work. A few days blew out to eight hours.

Then a few weeks later, the disappearance of my email address book led to a few twelve hour stints. But these turned out to be exceptions, and perhaps a reminder of the importance of flexibility that I had a hunch I needed to build into the work style from the start.

The benefits of adopting a four-hour day have definitely outweighed the challenges I’ve met along the way. I’m not sure if it’s the practices I had to adopt or the extra non-work time, but I’ve found my workdays more productive and far more enjoyable than ever.

Now, which coffee shop today?

In her next article, Trish will share some of her changes in work attitudes and lessons learnt since adopting a four hour day.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"