The idea of working six hours a day and leaving for home two hours early sounds fascinating. Yet it’s like a distant dream for most of us. Wouldn't it be amazing if you could save two hours from your workday, only to go home or pursue your passion? And doing this without making any compromises in your work or displeasing your boss!
In this article, I am going to show you exactly how I created a six-hour workday, step-by-step. I call it “The 6 hour Workday Methodology” after it became popular with my friends and co-workers. The reason why this methodology works for many people is because instead of doing "busy work", it allows them to cut through the clutter, focus on the most important things and deliver results.
There are two stages involved in the 6-hour Workday Methodology:
Stage 1: Planning & Preparation - In this stage, you plan and prepare for the 6-hour workday, on the previous day. Stage 2: The Action Day - The day followed by planning & preparation day, when you actually work for 6 hours.
Stage I: Planning & Preparation
The key to a highly productive day is planning and preparation. We do it in three steps:
Step 1: Self-motivation Motivation is the foundation of productivity. The key to being motivated is to identify ONE big reason to finish your day early. Make your 'Why' really strong. Are you going to play music, read your favorite novel or simply hang out with family and friends?
Let me tell you why this is so important.
Unless you clearly resolve how you are going to spend those extra two hours, you will not be motivated enough to work like a ninja. Take a few moments to write down your 'Why' on a piece of paper. This step is really important.
On a side note: If your organization policy is stringent about clock-out time, you may want to communicate this to the concerned authority appropriately and ensure you have their alignment (I don't want you to screw up with the HR department or your boss by demanding a 6-hour work day!).
Now lets go to the next step.
Step 2: Visualization Our mind can accomplish anything with more certainty if we visualize it clearly. Visualizing your day is not so complicated. Here is how you do it:
Think about a very successful day you had in past. Imagine that day is going to repeat tomorrow - in a much better way. Just tell yourself that tomorrow is going to be an amazing day full of productivity and lots of fun. Your meetings are productive, work is getting done and you are getting quicker responses from co-workers. Strongly thinking about and visualizing something creates a ripple effect in people around you. And this has worked again and again for me. I know this may sound philosophical, but I suggest giving it a try. You will be quite amazed with the results.
Step 3: Smart Prioritization Aiming to do ten things during a day is the surest recipe to not get anything done. I want you to come out of the "do-it-all" super-human mentality. Realistically, you are going to have a few surprises during the day and you need to keep extra bandwidth to deal with them.
I follow Tim Ferriss' advice on prioritization - focus on the minimum to get maximum quality output. Here is how you can do Smart Prioritization:
Write down the three things making you the most anxious or uncomfortable. You can ask yourself a couple of questions - “If I accomplish these three things tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my day?” OR “Will moving this forward make all the other to-dos unimportant or easier to knock off later?”
Keeping your personal goals limited to three will bring a lot more quality and certainty to your deliverable.
This is it. We are done with the planning and preparation phase. Now comes the day of real Action!
Stage II: The Day of Action
Since you have done a good deal of planning and preparation, it's going to be much easier to stay focused and energetic on the Action Day. Here is how you work on the Action Day:
Upon reaching the office, check your calendar and see if you have important meetings lined up. Plan your day accordingly.
Step 4: Rapid E-mailing E-mail is a "reactive" form of work and the top energy sucker. Most of us lose a bunch of fresh energy in the morning while processing e-mails, yet we seldom realize it. In a 6-hour workday you can't afford to do that. You need to handle e-mail in a masterful way and save your creative horsepower for demanding tasks.
Depending on the volume of e-mails you receive, set an upper time limit to process your inbox. Take anywhere between 15 to 60 minutes to get your inbox to zero. Here is how you can rapidly process e-mails:
- For emails that require short replies, reply to them in less than two minutes and archive them. (Over 70% of useful emails can be wrapped up in 2 minutes each.)
- E-mail requiring longer replies or more details should be moved to a "Reply Later" label/folder.
- Any reference information or useful content should be downloaded to your computer (a Dropbox synced folder is better) and deleted from the inbox. My favorite technique is to forward such e-mails to Evernote.
- Skip reading newsletters by subscribing to Unroll.me.
- Delete the rest of the e-mails.
Getting to inbox zero is critical to get your mind free from e-mails.
Unless something really important comes up, schedule yourself to check e-mail at the end of the day. Do not try to check email (often impulsively) every hour (I used to do it all the time, and found it extremely unproductive). Remember you have a shorter workday and you need to move on!
Step 5: Doing Real Work Here is when we tackle the 3 most important tasks for the day. Take a moment to review your tasks and feel free to shuffle your priorities. Now, I want you to understand the Parkinson's Law. It's fascinating and resonates well with most of us. It goes like this:
According to the Parkinson’s Law, knowledge work can expand to fill the time available for its completion. We tend to "fill" the time available for a given task. If we have a lot of time, we often occupy that time with "busyness," almost unknowingly. If we are crunched for time, we are forced to use it efficiently. Having fewer hours will force you to be completely efficient with your time.
Let's put this principle into practice by following these four steps:
- Choose a full 3-hour block of time, free from external distractions. Turn off the Internet, put your cellphone on DND and ask your co-workers not to bother you during this period. This requires some discipline. But it won't be an issue if you are totally motivated.
- Open the tasks you have decided to deliver during the day and take just one of them.
- Give yourself a short deadline to force immediate action for this task.
- Complete all 3 tasks one-by-one with singular focus.
Once you finish all three tasks, take a deep breath. You have spent just about 4 hours of your day and have already tackled the most important things. You still have couple of hours left to respond to urgencies, make phone calls, attend meetings or simply reply to longer e-mails sitting in your 'Reply Later' folder.
A quick note on meetings: If you have an important meeting during the day in which key decisions needs to be taken, include it in your top 3 priority tasks. If there are regular meetings with co-workers, keep them short, precise and outcome focused. Ironically, almost everyone hates long meetings but nobody knows how to run short meetings. Do it and set an example for others to follow.
Step 6: Wrapping it up By the time you handle all your miscellaneous stuff, you will have about 30 minutes left before ending your workday. Use this time for last minute wrap-up such as checking e-mail, reviewing your calendar/to-do list or informal communication with boss or co-workers.
Congratulations, you are ending a day full of productivity. You did not waste a minute and kept your focus on the most important things. Now you are ready to reap the fruits. Head home with the reward of two extra hours and have fun!
What has been your experience with a shorter workday? Do you think shorter workdays can be much more productive and fun?
About Author Hrishikesh Jobanputra is an Author and a serial Entrepreneur. He is an expert in marketing strategy for small businesses & start-ups. Hrishikesh co-founded 39shops.com, an e-commerce platform for retailers. He regularly writes on the subject of productivity and time management on his popular blog: ProductiveMotion.com.
He can be reached at: email@example.com.