A New Life Awaits You In the Four-Day Week
Issue № 216

The Four-Day Week Challenge

The more you work, the more you get done, right? Well, I’d like to encourage you to take the “Four-Day Challenge.”

Article Continues Below

The problem #section2

If you’re like most people, you’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it. The e-mail inbox is always overflowing and the list of to-dos never ends. You always feel that twinge of guilt because you’re never spending quite enough time on what you should be. What’s even more frustrating is that the more you work, the more it seems there is to do. Argh!

So how do we manage the madness?

The challenge#section3

My wife and I were recently having a conversation about our working schedule and our quality of life. We were getting extremely busy and both of us were feeling pretty stressed out. Between running Carson Workshops, building web apps like DropSend, organizing BD4D, updating Bare Naked App, and maintaining Vitamin, there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done.

Gillian (my wife) said, “Why don’t we try working four days a week and see how it goes? It will give us more time to relax.”

I thought the idea was ridiculous. How in the sam hill would we be able to get everything done? We have way too much to do in five days a week, let alone four.

And then it hit me: there will always be more to do. Working more won’t change that. In fact, working more is actually counter-productive. I was starting work everyday at 5:30 AM and working till 10:00 PM, but I still wasn’t done with everything. If I was working those extreme hours and still couldn’t keep up with my to-dos, then clearly working more wasn’t the solution.

The problem wasn’t a time issue, it was a mental issue. I knew I had a whole week to finish my work, so I spread it out over five (or seven!) days. If I knew I only had four days to finish a whole week of work, it would’ve motivated me to get things done more efficiently.

So here’s the challenge: work fewer hours.

How to make it happen#section4

So working less sounds great, but how does it work in the real world? It will depend on two main things:

  1. Whether or not you are self-employed
  2. If you sell products or services

If you work for yourself #section5

When you’re self-employed, you have complete control over your schedule. You can decide what days you work and how long you work each day. Gill and I work Monday to Thursday from 9 AM to 6 PM. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, as long as you limit your work week.

If you work for someone else #section6

If you have a normal 9-to-5 job, you might be thinking “Well that’s great for you Ryan. You can control your work week. My boss will fire me if I propose working a four-day week!” And you’re probably right.

However, you can take the challenge in many different ways. Instead of getting into work early and finishing late, tell yourself that you have exactly eight hours to finish all your work for the day. Set a mental barrier at the end of the day and know that you will shut down your computer and pack your bags exactly at five o’clock.

When you tell yourself that you’ve only got a limited amount of time to do a huge amount of things, you’ll find it helps you focus and work faster.

Products vs. services#section7

Working a four-day week is much harder if you run a service-based company. For instance, design companies will have to really work hard to keep a four-day week, simply because clients will expect you to be in the office five days a week.

If this is you, I’d like you to ask yourself this question: “Does my job facilitate my life, or does my life facilitate my job?” I believe it should be the former. Yes, you will lose a few clients who expect you to be available at a moments notice, but in the bigger picture, does that matter?

A possible solution to this problem is moving to a four-day week gradually. Maybe start working a four-day week just once a month. Then gradually increase this to twice a month. Eventually, you’ll have worked your way up to the entire month and (hopefully) your clients will be used to the idea.

Has it worked for us?#section8

The proof is in the pudding, right? It’s easy for me to say that Carson Systems works a four-day week, but what actually takes place every week?

It’s harder than we thought#section9

What we found is that we were extremely tempted to work on Fridays. We love what we do, and on top of that, there’s a heck of a lot of stuff that needs to be done. Not having that extra day to get things done actually felt a bit stressful at first.

In the first couple of weeks, we ended up working a bit on Friday, and even a little on Sunday. Hmmmm…clearly we needed to get a bit more serious about implementing this whole four-day work week stuff.

Week three and onwards, I’m happy to report, we successfully worked a four-day week. The trick was shifting our mental perception of how long the working week was.

Thursday is the new Friday#section10

It took awhile to see Thursday like it was Friday. What we realized is that Thursdays became very busy, because we had to finish everything for the week that hadn’t been done yet.

We would look at our to-do lists and realize there was still a huge amount of things to be done. Yikes. So the result is that Thursdays can be a bit hectic. Friday would’ve been hectic anyway though, so why not get the work done one day early?

Sometimes you can’t get it all done#section11

Now that we’ve been working a four-day week for three months, we’ve realized that we can’t always get the same amount of work done. Let’s face it, there are only so many hours in the day, and if you work fewer days, you will inevitably not get as much done.

But in the larger scheme of things, does that really matter? Will we lie on our death bed and say “Damn, I wish I would’ve got more done at work?” I doubt it.

So how’re the results?#section12

Once we trained ourselves to stick to the four-day work week, the benefits were absolutely amazing. It was like someone had added another Saturday to our week! On Fridays, we sleep in, fire up the coffee around 9 or 10AM and then relax around the house or head into town to a coffee shop. It really is amazing.

We have more peace. More time to think. More time to enjoy life. It’s fabulous.

Practical tips #section13

If you want to take the challenge, you’ll find you need to be extremely efficient when you’re working. Here are some tips to help you out:

  1. Avoid using instant messaging: It’s a constant source of distraction.
  2. Only check your e-mail twice a day: The surest way to waste time is the ol’ Send and Receive button.
  3. Stick to what matters: Take care of the most important stuff first. Don’t waste time on low-priority stuff. (In fact, delete the low priority stuff from your to-do list. It’s not going to get done anyway!).
  4. Ask for alone time: If you need uninterrupted time to get something done, politely notify your co-workers that you’ll be unavailable for a couple of hours.
  5. Limit blog-reading time: Set a time limit on your blog reading. If you don’t get through all your blogs in that amount of time, hit the trusty “Mark All As Read” button and move on.
  6. Make lists: Write a “to do” list for each day (on paper if you can bear to tear yourself away from Outlook). Put the time-sensitive stuff at the top and be realistic. Choose three time-intensive things to do and five quick things to do. Make sure you finish all of them before you leave in the evening.
  7. Restrict meetings: If you can, restrict the amount of meetings you call, or are involved in. Meetings drag on and can eat into your day. Instead aim for one or two meetings per week and plan them carefully to ensure you cover all important topics and keep on track.

Why it matters#section14

So why is it important to work less? What’s the big deal?

The reason is that when you work less, it gives you more time to experience life and think; you can use the extra time to not only spend with people you love, take up hobbies, or invest in causes you believe in, but also to have ideas. Some of our best ideas have come while driving, gardening, reading, or painting on the weekend.

But what if your job is something you enjoy? What’s the harm in working hard and long at it? Well, I can fully identify with this. I absolutely love running Carson Systems. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding and profitable. I often find it hard to work less because I love what I do.

Here’s the problem though: When I’m old, I won’t wish that I spent more time building web apps or organizing events. Spending time with people I loved or helping people is what will really have mattered to me. Working less gives you the time to do it and also rejuvenates the brain cells so that you can come back to your work with a fresh outlook. Variety is key.

Challenge the system #section15

What this article is really about is encouraging you to challenge what society tells you to do. Is it written in stone somewhere that “Thou Shalt Work a 40 Hour Week”?

A lot of the constraints and barriers we place on ourselves are completely unnecessary and even worse, keep us from being happy. My hope is that taking the Four-Day Challenge will help you enjoy life more and pursue what really matters to you.

Other resources#section16

If you want some great ideas about maximizing your effectiveness and time management, I’d definitely recommend checking out the following:

  1. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  2. How to Shut Up and Get to Work! by Jason Fried
  3. Lifehacker
  4. Ta-Da Lists

Good luck!

About the Author

Ryan Carson

Colorado born, Ryan has lived in the UK for six years. During that time he worked as a web developer before founding Carson Systems in early 2004. He is passionate about bringing the web industry together and developing forward-thinking web applications.

63 Reader Comments

  1. This is a great article, and a challenge I believe many professionals would have a very difficult time taking on. As a post-graduate student (of literature, something I love), I can fully identify with the desire to sometimes work more than is strictly required, if not with the ability to give myself a three-day weekend (if only!). Nevertheless, your assessment—dare I say diagnosis—of the problems in attempting to get more done by working longer hours is spot on for any profession.

    For me, and among many of my classmates, the temptation of computer toys is nearly endemic, and not only because often-urgent communication comes in the form of e-mail. This seems to be particularly the case for those among us involved in developing “marketable skills” like web design and programming. My most recent solution for ignoring all the distractions my computer regularly offers was to create another user account on my computer (not something everyone can do), with no desktop clutter aside from my Documents folder, and no application shortcuts except those directly related to writing. I know the other programs are still there, but it is immeasurably easier to ignore them when they’re not so obvious. At the same time, with fast user switching I can let my e-mail, chat, and newsreader programs run in the background, and can work knowing full well that, when I need a break, all my distraction tools—complete with any urgent messages—will be readily at my disposal.

    I feel likes it’s been reported in widely varying sources and for some time now that efficiency _and_ quality of life in countries with shorter work weeks and more liberal vacation policies are much higher than in the United States and countries with similar work culture. Good for you for making the move to do something about it in your life, despite what I’m sure can be considerable pressure and resistance from your user base. “Does my job facilitate my life, or does my life facilitate my job?” is exactly right.

  2. Thank you Ryan for an excellent article on self organization and what matters in life. I have been thinking very similar thoughts recently since our son come along. We all love creating the sites and applications during the day and get carried away by the process but let us be honest, admit it is our day job and not a hobby. Once we all do this we can crack on and be more productive as you suggest.

    Can I add a book recommendation to your resources?

    Read Good to Great by Jim Collins for a study on how corporations have implemented your suggestions and gone from, well, Good to Great.

    Anyway it is time I stopped adding comments to blog entrys and drew up my work plan for the day.

  3. I think this working off the exact same thing that happens with my coursework. With a period of a few months to do it, I successfully manage to leave it and do it in the last weekend.

    Boy does my productivity sky rocket over that weekend though.

    It almost becomes fun.

  4. bq. Is it written in stone somewhere that “Thou Shalt Work a 40 Hour Week”??

    Well, it’s not written in stone, but it is written (and worded almost exactly like that) in my contract 😉

    I look forward to working for myself. But when I do, I’m sure I’ll be working as close to a 100 hour week as I can physically endure for quite some time. For the start-up companies I really don’t think anything on the to-do list, no matter how low-priority it seems, can genuinely be struck off.

    For the underlings out there, the graduate interns and office monkeys of the world, we genuinely don’t always have a choice. Not yet. But that’s not to say I don’t sincerely look forward to someday enjoying my 4 day week, and my Friday morning coffee houses 🙂

  5. I just started 2 months ago planning everything in only 4 days instead of 5. This seemend to work perfectly but instead of taking day 5 completely off, I just relaxed a little bit and worked on some different projects I like most, because I just love to do it.

    Now I even have time every evening to do relaxing stuff because my attitude has changed and my planning is based on only 4 days a week. This works great!

    It’s good to see I am not the only one who discovered this and I hope more people will try this, but of course, most people don’t have time to try it 😉

  6. Great article Ryan – I really enjoyed reading it!

    If only I could be a four day a week person, unfortunately I’m a wage slave and I don’t think the company would appreciate me going AWOL every Friday. In fact I just recently made a decision to start my working days an hour earlier in order to catch up with blogs and articles (like this one).

    Having said all that, your article really inspires me to want to become self employed and if I ever get around to doing that – the 4 day week will be top of my agenda!

  7. Great concept here; I think the truth is we all need to be doing things like this. Unfortunately for some of us, as you pointed out, it’s difficult to accomplish something like this when you are required to report to a boss and log certain work hours every week.

    But you’ve got the right idea; I don’t think it should be limited to web designers and developers though. Over-working is becoming quite the epidemic here in the United States and eventually employees are going to get fed up with it.

  8. Ryan
    Thanks for your contribution on the ‘work-life’ balance issue.
    I work full time (evenings) in a restaurant and also have a (work in progress) concierge and errands business based in Montclair, New Jersey. I have a hard time ‘balancing’all this.
    Your post inspired me to stop procrastinating and start freeing up some time for rest and fresh thinking.
    I wrote about your ‘piece’ on my blog ‘Serge the Concierge’ this morning and invited my readers to send you their comment.

    I like ‘Vitamin’ as well.

    It is not about more, it is about better.

    Have a good day

    Blog: http://www.sergetheconcierge.com

  9. Hi, very good article!

    A year ago I started feeling pain in my wrists, resulting from to many hours by my computer. I had to choose if I should continue with computers or find something else.

    I choose to stay with computers and as a result from that I had to make a number of changes in my life. For example I now have a program (Workrave) which notifies me when to take a break, when to stop working, etc.

    At first I was mad at it, but after a while I realized that by having a limit I actually manage to get all important things done at a shorter time than before. This gives me a better balance and I feel better.

    I truly recommend anybody to set up some timer. It can, as a bonus, even save you from pain.

  10. Since March last year I’ve been working a 4 days/week contract, with Wednesdays off. On that extra day I can either attend to all the stuff that gets put off or do other freelance work. I’ve had a great time! Even if I work on Wednesdays it’s still a change from my usual job and the variety helps to keep me enthusiastic. I’ve recently signed away my Wednesdays too so I’ll see if I can go back to the 5 day week…

  11. It’s great reading. I’ll make sure to check out the books you mentioned. Although I must confess that the first step for me is to go down to “only” 5 days/week. It will take some time, but I’ll get there

  12. I expected Ta-Da lists to be about how to make a list of those accomplishments you wish you could make if only you didn’t have so much work to do. The ones that make you say “Ta Da! Look what I did!” That’s not what they were. Too bad.

    This article is right on about how working more doesn’t necessarily get more work done. Nor does it necessarily improve your life. I bicycle commute to work and I through it I discovered the paradox that when I slow down I have more time.

  13. Like so many before me, I really enjoyed reading this article. Not just because it asks us to “challenge soceity” (an old favorite to designers), but because it is something that I recently began thinking about while I toil away my 9-5.

    Unfortunately, I must stick with the 5 day work-week at the moment, because I’m paid hourly and not on salary (my boss revealed to me early on it was for that very reason – he wants dedicated people who will see projects through to completion, not just the end of the day). After months of hard work, however, I did realize I would find myself frustrated, stuck in creative ruts, and waking up at night with nightmares about clients’ websites when I wasn’t in the office.

    Now I’ve implemented a different variation of some of your ideas in this article, and I’m finding myself far more productive during the day. I only work overtime if it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary in order to meet the deadline, and I tell clients I’ll call them back if I’m in the middle of time-restricted project. It definately takes some getting used to, but it clears your head so that you CAN focus on the work you need to do in less time, AND come up with the creative ideas you were hired to cook up.

  14. An interesting thing happened in Atlanta in 1996. Because of the incoming Olympics, which took over a majority of the city, and would have caused incredible amounts of traffic had residents and visitors traveled the same roads. For the time that the Olympics took place, people who worked in the city worked from home. And why not? The technology is available for employees to get their work done, possibly even more work done without the distractions of colleagues, within the comfortable confines of their own homes.

    So why are so many employers still skeptical about allowing telecommuting to happen on a more regular basis? One word – CONTROL. If the employer can’t see you doing the work, then you probably aren’t doing the work. At least in their minds. Personally, I have an arsenal of computers at home with multiple workstations all within reach, with more computing power than I have at work. Add a broadband connection, a telephone with a speaker phone, iChat, email and software packages my company would never purchase, but could definitely use. I could get more work done effectively at home than at work. One machine could be busy rendering some video for the next online demo, the other could be used for checking email, another could be used for business-related research, etc.

    In my pajamas, I can get the companies website up-to-date, work on our latest marketing visuals, do some Flash banner animations while I listen to my iTunes library blasting as loud as I want to without worrying what others around me.

    Yes, occasionally, I can understand a few face-to-face meetings and a trip to the office to gather and present materials. All of which could be done with other methods, but leave the employer feeling satisfied that things are getting done.

    So, what do you think? Will corporate america start smartening up about the health and well being of their employees or do they like to keep their lab rats spinning away on the wheel?

  15. Hey everyone!

    I’m really flattered by your kind and generous comments. I thought everyone might say we’re lazy! 🙂

    I thought Diane’s comment was interesting:

    bq. I discovered the paradox that when I slow down I have more time.

    Amen sister. Amen!


  16. Been doing this since 1999. Working for the US Government has some advantages, and high on the list is an optional ‘maxiflex’ schedule that allows for 4×10 hr days. I live two miles from work so there is no commute to speak of. I get to ride bikes every Friday!

  17. Ryan mentioned a very important realization in his article: there is always going to be more to do. I came to the same realization during the Productivity & Accomplishment Workshop offered by “Mission Control”:http://missioncontrol.com/p_mcsystem.htm.
    For anyone interested in a simple, personal management system oriented around being powerful and productive in the face of “the ever-increasing amount of what there is to do”:http://www.missioncontrol.com/p_mcsys_work.htm I strongly recommend the course.
    Since I started using the Mission Control system, I spend less time on distractions, have noticed a skyrocket in my productivity, and a HUGE reduction in my stress level about everything I have to do.

  18. It’s a nicely written piece, but I felt it too “fluffy” to be of much use — two pages to tell me to only check email twice a day? — and the more practical tips are either common sense or have been talked about to death on blogs like lifehacker and 43folders.

    In the end, it seems you’ve traded a frantic Friday for a frantic Thursday and admit that the shortened work week requires that you work _faster_ to get through your to-do list. This doesn’t seem like such a good trade-off. A string of three day weekends is worth less if I’m frantic Monday through Thursday.

    @Al: “So why are so many employers still skeptical about allowing telecommuting to happen on a more regular basis? One word — CONTROL.”

    No, it’s about taxes. Whether you or your employer controls how and when you work effects your and their tax status (different IRS rules come into play).

  19. My clients, are overly demanding, reactionary, short-sighted [fill in expletive here]. Just like every client in the world. They’re expecting me to be on call 24 hours a day, and more than once they’ve acted on that fact. I’ve tried working the 4-day week and it just wasn’t practical.

    However, I did rejig my working week in a similar fashion: the 4-hour day.

    All projects I take on now, and existing projects where I can, are planned out based on a 4-hour day. Proposed timescales have doubled as a result, but by focusing and structuring my working days into half the time have had the same effects as described in the article: better use of time, more focused and more effective production.

    As a result, I have effectively created an extra 4 hours per day to cover all those other tasks like e-mail, phone calls, meetings, blogs, etc. (and extra run-off time for projects if I *really* need them), and because my work is now so much more effective I’m hitting deadlines with less stress, or even completing proejcts way ahead of schedule.

    So be it a 4-day week or a 4-hour day, I would have to agree that restructuring your work time to ensure you only get done what needs to be done, with no time for distractions, ultimately makes life so much simpler.

  20. Your article reminded me of the “Pareto Principle”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle that we’ve been trying to implement in our workplace. Limiting work hours to force yourself to focus on that magic 20% is an interesting proposition, and I’m glad to hear that it works for you.

    On our end, we are required to log our daily activities and track how much time we spend on each; by doing so we can clearly see how we’re wasti- I mean, spending our time at work managing our teams, and self-evaluate our time allocation.

    Kudos for a great article, and it’s great to see we’re not alone.

  21. I seriously hate IM, never use it unless absolutely forced to, and never understood what people like about it. Regardless of who I’m talking to, my natural instinct is always “I gotta escape”, like someone in the ‘Cube’ movie. I much prefer email, less distracting and you can control the flow.

  22. As someone who working was working a 5-day week six months ago (now working 4 days), I agree that more ideas come when working less.

    In my work (nothing to do with the web), I am extremely efficient, but my philosophy is – what can’t be done today can be done tomorrow.

    In some of that spare time I have got for myself, I taught myself html, css and customising CMSs as can be seen at cccwebzine.com. It’s really basic, but my partner and I can share on the web the thing we most love to do, which is mountain biking.

    Nice article to come home to!

  23. I’d like to take the view that a 4-day week is not about getting work done in less time, it’s about having an extra day off. Whenever I have a Friday or a Monday off, I find the extra day allows me to do whatever I want, and makes me feel so much better. Typically, I spend each weekend doing the same routine (shopping, housework etc) leaving not enough free time to travel, relax, or do something different.

    Now a point worth making here is that after 5 days of work I feel I can work no more. How many times have other people felt that they are in work day after day, and sometimes simply too tired to concentrate fully? Without flexi-time, I cannot take these tired days off, unless I use up my holidays. I feel sure that an extra day at the weekend would make me MORE PRODUCTIVE as I would be less tired, not feeling tied to the office, able to focus on daily work tasks better, and so on. Plus I might do exciting things on my extra day that would make me a more interesting person at work.

    It is only society that dictates we must work 5 days long. Some people regularly work 6! For instance, dentists, who may take an afternoon off during the week, but fill in by working Saturday morning.

    I personally long for an end to starting work at 9 o’clock every morning, but that’s another debate…

  24. This reminded me of the time that I had an interview with a well respected agency in London who, when asked about the working hours, commented that they only work nine to five and hardly ever work to six.

    The reason for that was simple; if your good at your job then you can do what needs to be done in the time that is given to you.

    I quite liked their philosophy, it made a nice change from some of the other agencies that I’ve been to who believe in long working hours supplemented by late night games of table football.

  25. This is just the discussion I have recently been having myself. I was also considering doing what Kyle Matthews’ (comment #1) has done and creating a new user on my computer for my work time. But I realised that as a passionate web designer i just can’t stop working: if i’m surfing at my leisure and see a wonderful/clever site I will look at the source code and likely bookmark the page. I need those same bookmarks work or play. Friends email me for help coding during my work day… etc.

    And Ryan’s suggestion to only check email twice a day I have also considered. But so often i am reliant on someone responding to my email asap – so its only fair i check my email regularly incase someone needs my response with the same urgency. Letting the obviously personal emails go unopened is necessary, but likewise, come the evening or the weekend, I am just learning to have the self restraint to ignore my new unread mail in my work inbox.

    With regards to 4 day weeks – I am utterly convinced, having recently done some freelance work for a big corporation where I went into their offices to work. The lack of concentration and motivation to work on Friday was palpable. Email became practically unusable due to the huge volume of internal ‘spam’ jokes and silly links flying around. And invariably, an excuse would have been found to order in the drinks trolley promptly at 5pm. As a freelancer working 1/2 days a week short on time and deadlines to meet, it was a nightmare!

    I must add, that this big corp did allow flexi-time, but because it was optional, it only fuels feelings of the people who were in the half empty office, that its not a ‘proper’ work day. The reason the 4 day week is not going to become standard in corporate culture, is a matter of control…. And not just about pay and taxes… There’s a fear that if we are given too much time to ourselves, we might start to take our life and our ‘hobbies’ more seriously – and what would happen if we all ran off and became the professional gardeners/artists/mountain climbers that we’ve always dreamed of being?

  26. Thanks for the post, Ryan. You’re on to something here. And while some might argue you’re not giving enough tips and tricks to make it happen, I think they’re missing the point. True, a lot of companies will reject this idea out of hand. But I don’t accept that we have to accept the status quo just because its the status quo. Why shouldn’t weekends be three days long? Who determined the length of the work week? Let’s keep pushing to do the things that are important to us the way we think they should be done. Life lived to the lowest common denominator is not a good starting point. Just because it’s always been this way is no reason to keep it. And so on.

  27. my problem is a little different. the problem is not that i can’t get my *_work_* work done. its that i can’t get the rest of the work done like my offline web designing/ leisure programming/ keeping my blog up-to-date.

    previously i used to work in the office late and so i couldnt get these things done. but for about four five months i have been keeping my office stuff organized and in time. i work five days but 40 hrs strictly.. when it comes to getting some work done in my off time! puff! never happens!

  28. I work at Dolby Laboratories here in San Francisco, and we’ve always had a 9/80 work week. This means that we work 9 hours a day, and 80 hours a week–thereby, allowing us to take off every other Friday. All the employees love it here, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    I definitely agree with you that there’s always more work to be done. When we’re on the 9/80 schedule, we always make sure to fit our projects and deadlines around the off Friday, so that work just gets done. It would be interesting to try every friday off (I suppose that would be a 4/40 work week?) All it takes is good planning and efficiency, and you’ll have more time for yourself.

  29. @Charles H: You’d be surprised. Maybe you’d find Mon-Thurs become more hectic, maybe you’d find that you wouldn’t spend your time dealing with the unimportant cruft, but regardless I think one day not working is worth 50 ‘not quite as busy’ work days.

    Last year I left my job of 8 years, and decided to take a break. After about six months rediscovering what was outside of office life I started contracting, picking up contracts, starting at less than a month, slowing building up to my last one of four months.

    I found myself getting lethargic and depressed again, putting on weight and getting out of shape, so when I was asked to extend the contract I negotiated 3 day weeks. What a HUGE difference!

    I’ve decided I work to live, not live to work, and so it seems right to balance your life that way. 3 days at work, and 4 days of life. I realise that’s probably more than most could manage, but people need to think why they do what they do.

  30. Working a 4 day week sounds like a good idea. I’m a designer who was hired at a much slower paced place than my previous job. It feels like I’m working 4 days a week instead of 5. My wrists, arms and hands no longer hurt either.

    I was wondering if it helps to have a two-income household to make working a 4 day week easier. Can the single people out there work 4 days without too much sacrifice?

    I have also noticed that working on Fridays can be a pain. Clients aren’t in, co-workers take Fridays off or are working from home. Friday can be a waste of a day. Would Thursday be the new Friday?

    I think sitting at a desk all day can make working 5 days a week hard too. Humans just weren’t meant to sit and stare at a monitor all day.

  31. For a while when I self-employed I had the same problem of always having so much to do to keep up with my clients, plus my wife was saying I was always too tired for anything else.

    Anyhow, my mentor advised me that I should not spend more than 5 hours a day on the computer. His suggestions were either work 5-hour days or work 4 days, or ultimately my creativity would suffer. I ended up working 5 hour days Monday through Thurs and on Saturdays, with Tuesdays delegated for general run around and project admin. That way I actually got the benefit of working at home – I got to be with my family. And having the day in between was also a good break.

    I also learned to say no to my clients, and I earned respect for it (at least from my bigger, closer ones).

    Now I’m back in the work-place and back to a regular 40 hour week I hadn’t thought I could take the same approach. But reading this article, I have been reminded and need to figure how to implement here.

  32. Ok, i like this idea, especially lately with my schedule turning me into a night owl. I seem to fire up the computer as soon as I get out of bed to end the day rolling off my desk chair and back into bed (Yes I work from home). I even noticed at times I found myself not leaving the house for up to several days at a time and my eyes would hurt in bright daylight when I did.

    So something has got to give and thats no more than an 9 hour working day and no more Fridays.

    To help ensure that I stick to this I’m going to out-source more of my work to my usual suspects for them to stress over.
    Whilst I get on with doing what I should be doing… Enjoying the company of my family for an extra day (and few hours a night).

    So as of tomorrow:

    8am-5pm Monday-Thursday

    And a ban on using the computer for personal use for more than an hour a day.

    Thanks for the article, lets hope I can stick to the challange.

  33. Hey Ryan, your great article really helps me a lot. it makes me start to think of all the tortures from work i have now.
    I can’t just stop for a cup of coffee while working in the daytime, it’s frustrated when facing all the stuff on my desk.
    Designing websites is what i want to do for life of course. but i never thought that i would be so tired. and it’s obvious that all the mass has used up my enthusiasm nearly.
    It’s time to take actions and make a change.
    4 days a week may be hard for me now. i can try 5 days a week without any extra time on weekends for a start.
    Thanx again!

  34. Nice article. It could be usefull to take a look abroad when discussing part-time work. Here in The Netherlands 36% of the employed population is working part-time. I think that the Scandinavian countries post even higher numbers than that. Off course there are jobs and situatations where part-time work is just not an option; be it is much less of a problem than a lot of companies and people believe. It’s interesting to see that these countries are amond the welthiest in the world, yet so many people are part-time employed…

  35. Tony Goff’s point that _”If your _(sic)_ good at your job then you can do what needs to be done in the time that is given to you_” is something I forgot to mention before. I once heard a neat saying: “If you can’t get the work done by 5 then either the job’s not right for the person, or the person’s not right for the job.” Screw overtime!

    @James Yu: how do you manage to get 80 hours into a week? Even working 7 days at 9 hours per day that’s only 63 hours. Did you mean a two-week schedule?

  36. About a year ago, I had a vision of a much different life. I spend far too much time in my car and far too little getting things done. A four day work week is one great strategy. For those who need people 5 (or more) days a week, I think telecommuting is a great strategy, but how can one convince companies to implement it?

  37. Good article. When my Wife & I abandoned the corporate world to run our our web/graphic design agency it was for choices and quality of life. We still work 5 days but not the hours you mentioned. We generally work 9 til 5 but thats it unless we have a pressing deadline on something. We also dont feel guilty about wandering out for a coffee when it suits us etc.

  38. That’s what my co-workers named my working hours in the office. I get in around 10 – 10:30am, never miss the lunch break and get out of the office around 5 — 5:30pm everyday. Any giving day, I work on more than 2-3 projects usually with tight deadlines, trouble shoot numerous projects which have nothing to do with me, give creative directions, answer technical or design related questions, and so far never missed a deadline. Well I’ll roll back little bit”¦

    I used to do crazy hours as well. Yet about three years ago, because of some health treatment I received, I end up going to office little late everyday, and the nature of the medication I took, forced me to leave work and go home on a reasonable time. Somehow I managed to stay on top of everything, and again somehow my productivity level increased :o). I started to find smarter ways to work, get things done faster and more efficiently.

    I agree pretty much about what Ryan says. It’s all about the mind set.

  39. I’ve been working 4 days a week for about four years now: this way I can spend a lot of time raising my kids.
    My wife works 3 days, so there’s only two days of daycare a week. It really works fine.

    Oh and:

    bq. It took awhile to see Thursday like it was Friday. What we realized is that Thursdays became very busy, because we had to finish everything for the week that hadn’t been done yet.

    My day off is thursday: I can use the fridays to do things that come in on wednesday and thursday. And on the end of wednesday I get the feeling that’s it’s almost weekend: one day off and another day @ work…

  40. Last year I went through a similar situation where I was working five (even six) days a week and still working and having a never ending things to do list. This meant that weekends were either spent catching up on sleep or recovering from working six days a week!!

    So after my third bout of migraine, I decided that the best way to sort this out is to go to 4 days a week. I have to say it wasn’t easy. I had to put together a really good reason why I wanted to do this, discuss it with my direct manager, her line manager and the HR at the company. This would mean a cut in money (which I worked out I could afford)and have to get my work done in four days.

    After many discussions it was agreed that I could do this, although reviewed every 6 months to make sure its working for both parties. This all started in September. It took about one month to get into the stride. Going away for a three day weekend to Brighton and Hastings helped.

    I now spend Fridays relaxing ready to see friends on Saturday and Sunday. I can get up late, put coffee on, ring my friends who are stay at home friends and have lunch with them.

    Also, I am starting my own webdesign business which means I can work whilst it takes off. So I highly recommend it. Try it. Ask your manager, what have you got to loose.

  41. It is comforting to know so many of us face the same challenges.

    My first 18 months “out of the gate” I was far too disciplined. Working for yourself sounds like a dream, but with so much to accomplish you can become a terrible boss if left to your own devices! I had worked independently before, and was aware of the pitfalls but stil managed to take too few breaks.

    As of January ’06 I am proud to say I’ve found balance and am much more satisfied – and far more creative! As we can all attest – that’s no coincidence. A truly relaxing holiday break, my husband joining the team and a change in priorities helped me reset my priorities and establish (what seemed like) counterintuitive goals. Now we plan non-work related activities during the work week and make the sojourn to Starbucks a priority. Yes, sometimes with laptops in tow, but the environmental change is always welcome.

    Great article – and great to see so many with similar experiences! Hopefully we’ll be able to enact the 3-day weekend around here later this year.

  42. Loved the article, I think it is totally reasonable, and your points about improving overall quality of life are well-taken.

    One thing I would advise against is daily to do lists. David Allen in _Getting Things Done_ does a great job of explaining why they don’t work. You can’t completely plan your days ahead of time, something is bound to come up to mess up your plans. Then you get off your list and feel frustrated, and have to make new lists. Stay away from the daily to do’s, and pick up _Getting Things Done_ to learn how to manage your tasks, the book is amazing.

  43. Yup, been working 3 or 4 day weeks since I was made redundant 4 years ago. I swore I’d never work 5 days ever again. My wife works a 3 day week and we together we cover child care for all but 2 days a week.

    Right now, I’m working from home for 1 day a week too.

    I guess you know about The Idler magazine, a great philosophy regarding work and life.

  44. now thats the spirit! I was once very ambitious, and accomplished many things, and made lots of extra money and impressed many people… but I soon realized that was just a manifestation of my insecurity, and was ultimately pointless. Through a more “spiritual” progression, I’ve learned my ambition and desires where causing my misery, and i was inflating my ego causing it to be illogical and hypersensitive. Now I focus on minimizing external pressures, simplifying, I spend my time mastering contentment which better counteracts the original problem of insecurity that I was unknowingly trying to alleviate in the first place. The whole point of working is to provide for things we need in order to be happy or content, beyond our normal everyday needs, food, clothing, shelter, etc, everything else is gratuitous and “dead weight”… just ego boosters… which goes back to the source of misery… by spending all of your time working, your defeating the purpose of what you are working for… which is just simply to be happy

  45. In most cases, clients expect you to be there Monday through Friday, and at their beck and call during the traditional “business hours”. With my company, we have been working with a system for the past two years that allows us to do both.

    In a nutshell, we split the team in half, with half working Monday though Thursday, and the other half working Tuesday through Friday. For our situation it has worked out very well, but then again we’re also a small business too. However clients can contact someone M-F, and someone is there to field their questions. We also run a skeleton crew in the datacenter over the weekend and holidays, but that’s the nature of the beast. However, even that small handfull of employee’s is on a 4 day week as well.

    So it is possible, even in a service related business. What we have learned is that when dealing with clients, is to not allow a client to have a single point of contact. Sure, in a given type of company there may be a main point of contact, but make sure the client also has an alternate point of contact as well. See how that plays into it? Whether their primary contact is out of the office on Monday or Friday, the alternate is there on the day that the primary is not.

    Granted for myself those 4 days still usually 16-18hours long, but it sure beats what my original schedule was, which was usually at least 6 days a week if not 7.

    Excellent article, and it can work for almost any given situation. Granted if you’re not the boss it becomes a challenge to say the least. However, with today’s market and ever-increasing drive to “think outside the box”, employer’s are always looking for ways to improve production. Not all of them bite on the idea of 4 days at 10 hours, with two days only being at half staff, but you never know. Some companies have actually used a combination or altered method, and went to 4 days at 9 hours, and a 4 hour Friday. While it isn’t a 4/3 combination, it is a step in the right direction.

  46. Great timing, I was actually lieing in bed this morning planning how I could make this happen, now that I am self-employed. The two main reasons being the fact that I do so much volunteer work and I don’t think its healthy to work more than 40 hrs a week all up, and the fact that technology was supposed to take a load off our hands, and I’d like to see that happen!

    Here’s to a little less greed so we can deal with the loss of income, but enjoy the quality of life : )

  47. I have a very similar routine which i will post below. There are 10 lessons in all and they can be found here: http://www.happinessu.org/time/

    On a personal note, i have actually cut my work week down to 25-27 hours per week (been doing it for 3 weeks now) and i am getting MORE done in that time than i ever did in 50 hours a week. Getting more done is all about focus. And to respond to some of the comments above about working less hours means less income, i have found it to be just the opposite.

    Now here is my suggestion where time is concerned:

    Friday, Day 10 — Give Yourself LESS Time To Complete A Task.
    The time game: tasks expand to the time allotted them. Give them even less time. We think of time and to do list as linear but we have seen they are not. Yes there is a limit to just how quickly things can be done (haste only makes wastes when we are not focusing on the job at hand).

    Before you sit down to do any task think how long it should take (you should have done this back on Monday of this week, Day 6). Did you notice that the time it takes to do a task always takes the time you imagined and maybe a little more. Would you believe that if when you first set down to start a task if you got fixed in your mind that the task will only take 15 minutes (instead of 30) that the majority of the time you will actually get it done in those 15 minutes?

    Now there is one draw back to this technique: if you do every task faster everyone around you will expect you to always do everything that fast. The key is to use your new found “extra”? time to learn more. To practice. To get better at whatever it is that you do all day.

    This is one time management skill that must be practiced often. Sit down and really focus on the task at hand. See it getting done in the allotted time. Note when you started working and then as you work keep saying I will get the task done just like said.

    When the task is complete see how well you did. Did you cut down the time you though it would take. The more you can focus in on the task the more you can expand the time you have to get the task accomplished.

    With this time management skill there is no difference between how you use it at work or at home. The biggest key is doing it everyday and honing you time skills. Just like any skill, this one takes repetition and practice to master. But this skill alone can free up more time for you.

    And again, the warning, if you do find yourself completing 8 hours worth of work in just 6 hours, don’t start filling those last 2 hours with more work. Spend that extra time, reading or researching or practicing getting better at whatever it is that you do for a living.

  48. After nearly clearing a hundred hours per week, I decided that enough is enough. Initally, I started to cut back my hours to 60hrs/week, only climbing the hour ladder once again. After taking a different route, as you suggested, I started alloting hours to specific tasks. I now spend no more than 30hrs/week and my productivity level has dramatically increased.

    Realistically, if one works more, less is produced. A person really only has 6 hours per day of productive work. After that amount, one is really just spinning their wheels on loose gravel.

  49. You’ve tapped the number two nail of three that drive people nuts. The advice is sterling. The perspective is refreshing.
    The simplicity of your approach is authentic.

    Obvious to me is that your ego isn’t wrapped around your job title. This is the condition I see in my coaching practice; people can become workaholics because their work is the only form of validation they receive.

    Questions to test for workaholism:
    1. How would you rate a relationship with yourself?
    Fulfilling Mediocre Doesn’t exist

    2. What drives you (beside money) to overcommit to your work?
    Fear of poverty Shallow interpersonal relationships Can hide from the outside world?

    3. What work would you do if you didn’t get paid for it—are you doing it? If not, call me!

    4. What have you identified as your time wasters? (In my coaching I call this drain and strainâ„¢. If you haven’t taken a moment to name them, do so now.

    5. Write your epitaph and see if working at your job was what you want people to remember about you.
    Just food for thought. I have good news. Every generation must learn how to solve this problem. You’ve already begun. Congratulations.

    Coach Cubas

    Business Influences – http://coachcubas.blogspot.com

  50. If you do not have the possibility to “enjoy” a four-day week challenge – try to plan your 40 hour week better as a start. Many of us doesn’t work as effective as we could with some better planning.
    Good luck to you all,

  51. I’ve already started to do some of the things you suggested, just on instinct — thinking there has to be a better way. You’ve helped to fill in the blanks in my plan. I do have a service based company, but I’m shooting for half-day Fridays. I mean, what is really so important that it has be online on Friday after 1pm? I also agree, that when I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be wishing I had logged more time screen time.


  52. Thanks! I’ve been doing this for the last little while and it’d been helping a lot. I’ve gotten time to relax (which I don’t get much of) and I think my work has gotten better as well. Cheers!

  53. Hi,

    I followed the same path as you 1.5 years ago, in France, for practically the same reasons as you, but also to spend more time with my son.
    However, I chose to take Wednesday’s off, to be with him : it feels like having 2 week-ends in the week ! Since then, I set up a company with a friend, and still manage to keep Wednesdays off, although he often called me at the beginning.
    So, I also agree that more time is never the right solution; for projects, its the same.

    Best efficient results are obtained by time-boxing.


  54. I’m so glad I found your article. Just last week, I just pitched the idea of a work-at-home day for the company (I’m the boss) and got shot down by my colleagues on grounds of customer service, lower productivity and so on.

    I guess I haven’t presented the bigger picture about time to relax, sit back and *think*, spending more time with family, which you articulated so well in your article.

    I’ll be forwarding this to the entire company and will post outcomes if we get started. Thanks!

  55. Thanks for the article Ryan. I currently work full time for a software company but in 2005 I spent half the year working 4 days. I have been there for almost 7 years, put in a lot of time, and they know the value they get from my energies, so my boss was open to the idea.
    It also helps when your motivations for cutting back are in the right place. In my case, I needed desperately to do some artwork as well as some side Web projects. My free day was very busy but it wasn’t a job, it was passionate work.
    My company considers 32 hours full time so I kept my full benefits. My pay and vacation accrual got cut back 20% (hey, something’s gotta give) which in the end proved to be a bit too much to bear as my wife is not working to pick up the lost 20%. Even so, I wouldn’t have given up those 6 months for anything, and I do plan to do it again in the future.

  56. If, instead of that 10% raise, you negotiate a 10% cut in your working week, can you retire in 10 years time?!

    Accountants can explain why not, but it’s a nice idea. I set myself a new rule about a month ago – no working between 5pm and 8pm, and no work on weekends. My kids are happier, my wife is happier, and strangely I get more done – there’s a hard limit there that has to be respected, so I really concentrate. And I enjoy the time off!


  57. I have been working an “off” schedule of 2am to 6am, 6 days a week, for about a year now. I take very minimal meetings and phone calls during the daytime hours. I find working when most people are sleeping very productive. I can truly concentrate on work.

    However you choose to schedule your work-week, I find it is very sanity-saving to have “work times” and “not-work times.”

    Kudos for this article!

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