I was impressed by the breadth of information in the Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Work Week article over at Zen Habits. I would venture that almost all of us would love to reduce the work week. Here are my comments on what Leo’s bullet points…(bear in mind that since Leo is both a self-employed person and an employee, he sees both sides of the working coin):
- Reduce Your Work Hours. This tip, which you give yourself a time to work and stick to it is a great one for all people prone to overtime. Make sure you get out of the office on time. I also agree that cutting your work week down to 4 days will also not impact productivity…in fact, it will probably increase your productivity. This tip works on the fact that work will expand to fill all available space. And if you give it more space, it will fill it.
- Work from Home. I would change this one to “Work Away From Your Normal Place” There are days when I need to get out of the office so I can get things done. I am amazingly productive on those days. I also find that I am very productive away from home on those non-work projects. I still remember an amazingly productive 2 hours I had at the library, away from internet and email.
- Have Set Email and RSS Times. This is a tricky one. At home I don’t have a problem not checking my email client. At the same time, I can lose whole evenings reading feeds. At work, my email is turned on all the time (since I work partially resolving customer problems), and I check it frequently. This is very disruptive when I am trying to concentrate on new development. The funny thing is, both of these less-than-optimal behaviors are habits. They are not necessary, but I do them because I’m used to them.
- Become Focused. Along with the description on this, Leo says to stop multi-tasking. I find that when I stop trying to do everything at once, I get much more done, and the end product is better quality. This applies not only to work, but conversations and household tasks. The only thing I find I can do well multi-tasking is knit and watch TV, but only as long as there is no pattern involved.
- Set Time Boxes.This is a rehash of #1, but on a smaller scale. I find that if I know I only have 15 minutes to work on something, I will get more done than if I know I have all day.
- Do Only Tasks With Big Returns. Working for someone else, this is not necessarily possible; however, it is fair to point out the worthlessness of a task and suggest better alternatives. Even after having done that, though, there have been times when I have been mindlessly altering tenses of verbs in a website just because someone thought it would look better. As far as payback for my own businesses, I find that focusing on the things that will matter most in 2-3 years first prevents me from doing a lot of mindless busy work.
- Outsource The Rest. I’m still not sure on my total commitment to outsourcing. However, I do outsource some things in my life and have great paybacks on it. The key phrase in Leo’s article, though, is “If it doesn’t really need to be done, eliminate it.” This trumps outsourcing. If it really doesn’t need to be done, don’t pay someone else to do it either.
- Reduce Your Commitments. This was a big one for me. Until I did Getting Things Done, I had no idea what I was committed to. I purged commitments: professional, household, projects and relationships. I still get over-committed, but not perpetually. I am more comfortable saying no
knowing what I have on my plate and ruthlessly protecting my writing time.
- Shut Off The Computer. This is the one thing I need to do more consistently, and the thing I am the worst at. The computer sucks up more of my time than anything else. I have gotten to the point, though, that at home I know exactly what I am doing on the computer and won’t get sidetracked. At work, I think I would be in trouble if I shut the computer off. It is my job, after all…but sometimes I fantasize about turning the computer off and designing on paper!
- Change Jobs. Leo says that if your current job doesn’t give you the flexibility, find another. If you can’t negotiate what you need, then either you’re value in the job is not high enough to merit the negotiation, or you are not specialized enough.
- My Tip: Go Independent. I worked for a firm for a long time, and at the beginning of the year I negotiated to go part time as an hourly sub-contractor. My client was willing because my productivity is high, and I had demonstrated my value. I lost my benefits, but I wasn’t using them. I had to cover the cost of paying the social security tax and my retirement, but I calculated that into my hourly rate. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being a salaried employee.
I really liked the way Leo laid out these tips. This is the worker’s market, and there is a lot of flexibility out there. Good luck reducing your work week!