One of my performance goals for the first quarter of 2012 is to be working a maximum of four hours a day. These hours must be (by my measure) productive, effective and 70% billable.

If what I have been able to complete today before mid-morning is any indication, I will achieve this goal before the end of January – long before the end of March!

Let me share my tactics:

a) Over the past few weeks, I have paid particular attention to how long things really take me to do. No more guesstimates. Of all the work flow management skills out there, having this awareness is number 3 in my top 10 list.

b) I break everything into hourly chunks. This would be skill number 2.

c) I do the thing I most dislike or am most fearful of first, every day. Without a doubt, this has got to be the number 1 skill.

d) I work on projects, not tasks. “Tasks” suck so instead of focusing on the minutiae of little bits and pieces, I have a range of “projects”. For example, Project E is anything to do with email (tidying, responding, composing, etc). Project C is anything to do with clients (phone calls, proposals, etc). Project D is anything to do with documentation (preparing presentations, writing reports, analyzing information, etc). And so on. Sometimes they cross over each other, like preparing a document for client X and emailing it to them, but I don’t get too worried about the smaller nuances.

e) When I need to be focused, I turn off the phone and the email bell. I disregard temptations to wander and get sidetracked. I shut my door and reinforce that boundary vigorously. And unless I definitely need to be on the internet to complete the project, I keep it turned off (it is one of my favorite time wasting places!). I know what I need and make it a priority.

f) Once an hour, I take a 2-5 minute breather. I stop all my work and gaze out the window or play with the Bucky Balls.

g) When all my project work is done, I total up the work time completed today (and note the unexpected events with an X), outline all the Projects I will work on tomorrow and then begin enjoying my “afters”, being all the things I get to do once the work is done for the day. Tomorrow, when I walk in the office, I will outline which hour is allocated for each Project. Sometimes it is consecutive and sometimes it is not.

h) I use a digital kitchen timer to time everything. It keeps me hopping and accountable to something other than just me.

Before you say this cannot be done with your schedule, as long as you are not in a role that is primarily reactive (such as hotel concierge, an office receptionist or a cab driver), a huge chunk of it can absolutely be your own. And I can show you how. Give me a call.

But please call tomorrow, because as you can see from the photo of my schedule above, I’m in the process of digesting my long lunch and am heading out the door to go car shopping.

    1 Response to "4 Hour Work Day"

    • Beth

      C is the kicker for me, too. It’s amazing how powerful and motivated I get to finish things (and I end up doing them more quickly!) when I check the ugliest things off my list first thing.

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