Should We All Have a 4-Day Work Week?

Does an extra day at the computer really produce that much more work? Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson thinks the answer is “no” and has structured his company to prove it. From a 2012 post on his blog:

There are so many benefits to working less it’s hard to list them all, but here are the major ones:

  1. Recruiting is easy (we still pay full salaries and offer a very generous benefits package).
  2. Retention is easier. One of the Team told me he regularly gets emails from Facebook trying to win him over and his answer is always the same: “Do you work a 4-day week yet?”
  3. Morale is boosted. On Mondays everyone is fresh and excited – not jaded from working over the weekend.
  4. I get to spend 50% more time with my kids then almost all other dads (three days versus two). Fifty percent. It’s insane. For those on the Team without kids, they get to spend this extra 50% on their hobbies or loved ones.
At the time of writing, the company was profitable and the company has since removed all managers.

Read his entire post here.

via Hacker News.

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  • Cesar Idrobo

    At the Savannah College of Art and Design, we only have 3 classes per quarter 4 days a week. So, we have 3 day weekends to get the work done. It’s intense, but definitely effective.

  • ciaran

    I work freelance and have been mostly working 4 days per week since April when my son started at nursery – my girlfriend does the same as initially, this was our plan to help cut the costs of daycare.

    Something I didn’t forsee was the knock-on effect is that I find I use my 4 days at work far more efficiently & productively. Luckily, my clients are all usually pretty flexible or will shuffle a job around if needed, or when there’s a big deadline or project to take care of, I’ll book my boy in for another day in the creche. The flipside is that when things have got really hectic with work & I’ve been back to a M-F, 9-5 working week, I’ve found myself more stressed & tired, precisely because I’ve had to work more. Granted, I’m lucky as I’m my own boss and this situation won’t work for everybody, but the cash is still coming in and I enjoy myself at work and at home.

  • Anthony Miranda

    Sticking to a 5 day workweek is like the music industry sticking to to their old ways back when music piracy was at it’s peak and ITunes come out–a failed resistance to the evolution of the process.

  • Kosio Angelov

    I don’t think this is the most effective way to go. Yes, morale is boosted and people are happier but we are creatures of habit and habit needs repetition. If your work habits are on for 4 days, off for 3, on for 4, off for 3…habits are very hard to be formed as every start of the week is like starting from 0.

    • John Khoury

      I appreciate this bold statement. Everyone wants to think that 4 days a week is better cause everyone wants to work less than 5 days a week (for a good year or two I worked 4 days a week and loved it). But there may indeed be some truth to keeping the flow going. What I would like to add is the idea of flexibility in the work week itself. Go home, take a nap, take a break whenever you feel like it. Change your environment by working from home or in the lobby. Give your body and mind what it needs when it needs it and you should be able to still feel happy, in control, and sharp. Habits are a good thing to foster but changing patterns also provides stimulation and energy. AND, don’t forget to take proper vacations regularly.

  • Rusty Smith

    I don’t know many people who can continue to be at the top of their game mentally, after one 13 hour day, much less 3 in a row. I know it can be done, and I suppose some people in some jobs could do it well, but I’m positive it effects their productivity.

    In fact if things got tough at work and someone had an accident on the way home I wouldn’t be surprised if some ambulance chaser dragged the employer into court for allowing the employee to drive home after working that many hours.

    • elizabeth

      What makes you think that everyone works 13 hour days? My fiance works for Treehouse, and while he has certainly put in a 13 hour day before – who hasn’t? – he almost always works 9-6. Maybe a half hour earlier or later depending on whether he needs to meet with someone in another time zone.

      The important thing to note here is that it is not about the quantity of time spent at work, it is about the quality of that time. So many people freely admit to ‘wasted time’ at work. This cuts out that time and allows you to spend those extra hours doing what you want to do, instead of running out a clock.

      • Rusty Smith

        I have had 2 jobs with 4 day work weeks, and one 9/80, so I have seen the result. I was there when one 4 day was implemented, and when the 9/80 was implemented, and I loved both, but also saw how in each case the company took a productivity hit. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take short work weeks every time, but I don’t confuse that with a belief that short work weeks, which mean longer hours, result in the same productivity as 5/8 hour days.

        The only increase in quality time I saw, was my quality time at home and with friends.

        I also doubt that workers that aren’t effective for large portions of their day will become more effective when the work day gets longer. I just haven’t seen it.

  • Marty Martinez

    I worked a 4 day work week for 12 years and feel that I was just as productive, if not more than I am now, in a 5 day work week. I had no issues with putting in the extra 2 hours a day so that I could have a 3 day weekend I actually used that additional day off to take care of appointments at the doctors, going to the DMV for license renewals, etc. or played golf and then got home and did my tasks around the house that afternoon. Thus I was missing less time during worknig hours for things that could only be taken care of during working hours on weekdays and it gave me a true weekend with family and friends, so when I returned on Monday to work I was more relaxed and ready to get back into the swing of things knowing that I would be off again come Friday.
    My fiance works a 4 day week and loves it. It is a great retention tool. No matter how green the grass is on the other side or how stressful things are at work the first thing she always comes back to is “does this other job work 4 days?”.
    We are both professionals and if the need arises we put in the extra time on Friday, weekends or evenings. It’s just nice to know that it’s now the expected norm.

  • Jarod Billingslea

    I most definitely think we all should work 4 days a week. I have been working 4 days a week (M-Th) myself, and I can say my effectiveness and efficiency skyrocketed because of this new mindset. But I also think there’s a certain way you have to do it, because it’s not great for everyone — at least not in the beginning when you suck at managing your time well and work alone.

    And I see me and Ryan work 9 hours too. I wake up at 4:30am and work from 5am to 11:30am and then 5pm to 8pm though. It makes life so much enjoyable during the afternoon. I truly feel free in my life after 11:30am. And working from 12-4pm isn’t bad if I decide to work. Meetings are always fun because of this schedule I’ve set for myself.

  • mona

    Awesome! I agree with the above post, nicely written too! So many friends and family I know are knackered by Friday and loathe Mondays. I’m happy to say I work part-time and I still enjoy my career :)

  • Joe Nicklo

    Such a noble idea and it’s nice that it works for Treehouse but like I said in a previous post (creative rituals), these companies are so rare that they’re almost a myth. While I’d LOVE to work a 4 day week, one company isn’t going to change the way companies (at least in the U.S.) operate.

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How Pessimism Can Improve Your Life And Work

A new video by The School of Life explores the unappreciated wisdom of pessimism. Negative thinking gets a bad rap, but in fact it can ironically have a positive effect on your productivity and creativity. As The School of Life argues, pessimism prepares you for the worst, reduces your expectations, and protects you from disappointment—all helpful for your psyche as well as your creative output:

We live in an absurdly and painfully optimistic world. Mostly, that’s the result of all the businesses out there trying to sell us things, and understandably using cheerfulness to do it. And partly, it’s the influence of technology, which is always getting better, coloring our view of life as a whole, which often isn’t improving. …

For centuries, religions peddled dark messages. Buddhism told its followers that life was suffering. Christianity spoke of the fallen state of mankind, and of the inevitability of earthly imperfection. That was helpful; it kept our expectations in check.

The psychologist William James came up with an equation: Happiness = Expectations / Reality. So there are two ways to ensure contentment. Change reality, or change expectations. Pessimists know to reduce the expectations.

Writer Barbara Ehrenreich takes the espousal of pessimism a step further in her acclaimed book Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America. As she writes in a piece for The Guardian, it’s not just that pessimism has benefits for us; optimism can actually be psychologically harmful:

Like a perpetually flashing neon sign in the background, like an inescapable jingle, the injunction to be positive is so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to identify a single source. Oprah routinely trumpets the triumph of attitude over circumstance. A Google search for “positive thinking” turns up 1.92m entries. A whole coaching industry has grown up since the mid-90s, heavily marketed on the internet, to help people improve their attitudes and hence, supposedly, their lives. …

[But this] ideological force in American culture… encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune and blame only ourselves for our fate.

You undoubtedly have, and will continue to, hit roadblocks on your path in life and work. But by recognizing that cheerfully assuming everything will shake out in your favor, and maintaining unrealistically sky-high expectations, is dangerous and unproductive, you’ll be able to clear those roadblocks in such a way that enables you to learn, grow and—most importantly—move on.

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How (and Why) You Should Read More

Book by Mike Ashley from the Noun Project

Book by Mike Ashley from the Noun Project

There’s no question that reading enriches your life. Reading imparts fresh inspiration, keeps your brain sharp, improves your writing, can relax you, and even benefits your health. Devoting the time and mental energy needed to read an entire book, as opposed to the snackable content (tweets, blog posts, email newsletters) that makes up the Internet, is a deeply rewarding experience. You go on an intimate journey with an author, by way of which you become much more immersed in the topic at hand than you’d be able to after a few hundred words of “like”-able discourse.

But how to make time for reading books (physical or e-)? From Rype’s blog, a few handy suggestions:

Learn To Read Faster

… Since the average reader reads around 250–300 words per minute, being able to double your reading speed at 500–600 words will allow you read twice the number of books in the same amount of time. …

a. use a pointer

Use either a pen or your index finger to keep track of your speed when reading. This will be useful for the second technique.

b. expand your peripheral vision

Start reading 3 words in from the first word of each line and end 3 words in from the last word.

Schedule It

Reading more books can simply come from making more time for it.

Scheduling your most important tasks can become one of the most productive things you can do, whether you’re making time to read, learn a language, or master a skill. …

It can be as little as 15–30 minutes in the morning before your work, or during lunch hours.

Drop It If You Don’t Love It

… If you want to read more books, retain more, and double your knowledge, you need to have a passion for what you’re reading. …

Don’t be afraid to quit if you don’t love it.

It’s what will lead to what you love.

Keeping track of how many books you read each year can be a huge motivator. You get the satisfaction of adding an item to your list each time you close the cover of a book for the last time, and can challenge yourself to increase your total each year. Sites like Goodreads and Shelfari help you log your read count and set an annual goal.

Reading is one of the three R’s of childhood education for a reason. And assuredly, Sir William Curtis—credited with coining the phrase—had books in mind when he said it.


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The Method Actor Approach to Design


Legendary graphic designer Michael Bierut, Pentagram partner and protégé of design legend Massimo Vignelli, lets the world into his creative process in his new monograph How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things. A particularly interesting element is his “method actor” approach to graphic design, as he tells FastCoDesign:

[S]omeone says you want to do the signs for the New York Times?… [T]o do the work properly, I have to talk to editors, I have to sit in on the page-one meeting where they decide how page one is going to be laid out…

If you just have a request for proposal where the client says we need X, Y, and Z, that really just gives you the shopping list… It’s sort of like saying, I need a pair of pants and a shirt. But then, where are you going to wear it, how much are you going to spend? I’ll stand you in front of a mirror and you have to feel like you’re the kind of person who can wear those clothes.

So going to all those meetings, if all I cared about were typefaces or colors, I’d be sitting, fidgeting, thinking, “Why am I here? This is boring.” Instead, I was thinking “I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe that without ever taking a journalism class I’m actually sitting with the top editors at the New York Times and I’ll know before any other civilian does what’s going to be the story that appears in the first column on the left of tomorrow’s paper.” I had that momentary thrill.

Wrapping yourself up in the topic of your work so that you’re truly invested doesn’t just translate into more effective and impactful work. It also keeps you more fulfilled and motivated as an artist. Because the method actor approach to acting isn’t just about inhabiting the character fully so that you never lift the veil to reveal your true self until after the project is completed. Ultimately, method acting is about just being, as opposed to putting something on or performing. And if you can get to that place in your work when you’re not feigning interest or curiosity, but truly “feeling it,” that’s where the art lies.


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Austin Kleon: How To Be a “Scenius”

By Austin Kleon

By Austin Kleon

Writer and artist Austin Kleon, of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! fame, is a big supporter of creatives that can contribute to an artistic community as opposed creating in their own vacuum. In FastCo Create, he borrows the term “scenius” from the musician Brian Eno to encourage artists to change their end goal from being a genius to being a creative contributor:

Kleon cautions against the artistic myth of the lone genius pounding away in a garret somewhere…. He created his own scenius online. Kleon says, “I think what has been the most remarkable in my career is that I’ve never been part of a geographical scene. I didn’t move to New York after college. I didn’t move to L.A. I moved to Cleveland, and there’s not a whole lot of a scene there. But what I did have was the Internet, and I became part of a scenius by putting my work out there. I started blogging in 2005, and back then, we were all connected, we just didn’t have social media in the same way as we do now. You’d just post things to your blog and people would send you comments or emails and you’d slowly find people as they stumbled across your work. When I did work I really liked and put it online, it attracted the people I wanted to meet. For me, being online, that was my scenius. That was my moving to New York in the ’70s. Or Paris in the ’20s.”

Kleon notes that you don’t have to be in the same medium as the people in your scenius. In fact, it helps if you’re not. He says since moving to Austin, he’s fallen in with musicians and filmmakers in addition to writers and artists, and those relationships have informed his work.

The key to being a scenius is to create something every single day. A constant stream of creative outpout ensures that you remain a vital part of a creative community. As Kleon told 99U in an interview:

We all get 24 hours. No one gets more time. Sure, you might have your job, you might have a kid, you might have a family—I had all of those things when I was writing my first book—but when you get ruthless about what you really want to do, there are so many gaps. So many little spaces in the day where you can find the time….

It happens a lot of in creative work that you finish a project and you don’t know what to do next. It can be a bit disconcerting. And I think that’s why it’s so important to have a daily practice that you do no matter what you are working on.

Your work, no matter what it is, matters. When you put it out there every day for your creative scene to absorb and consume, you cultivate your own brand and the community in tandem. That’s what being a scenius is all about.


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Achieve Goals By Gamifying Them

Benoît Bossy

Illustration by Behance member Benoît Bossy

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits suggests the secret to successfully achieving goals is working up to them level by level, video game style. The idea is that you make incremental changes to your existing behavior over a period of time, pausing along the way to master each level before progressing to the next. He took this approach to losing weight:

Like a video game, the way to changing your health habits is by starting out at the first level, and only going to the next level after you’ve beaten the one before that. The problem is that most people start at Level 10 and fail, and wonder what happened. Most of us want to skip several levels, but we’re just not ready.

So the secret is to start at Level 1, and only advance once you’re done with that level. One level at a time, you’ll master the game of losing weight and getting healthy….

Level 1

1. Start walking just for a few minutes every day.
2. Reduce your eating by a little bit. A very little bit.

Level 2

[D]on’t go to this level until you’ve had a streak of seven days of doing Level 1.

1. Walk every day for a few minutes more. If you’ve been going around the block twice, make it three times. Or add 5 minutes to your walking.
2. Eat a little less than in the previous level. Just a little less — not really noticeable.

Level 3

If you’ve successfully done Level 2 for another week, you’re ready to add more:

1. Walk a little more.
2. Eat/drink less of something that’s empty calories — less soda, sugar, bread, pastries, sweet coffee drink, chips, cookies, pizza. Don’t drop any of these completely, just eat less of it.

And so on. Minor tweaks collectively add up to major changes. The trick is having the patience and diligence to stick with those small shifts and implement them week after week until you’ve achieved your ultimate goal. To stay motivated and track your progress, try using a goal-centered app like, LittleBit, or or a more analogue system like Jake Lodwick’s Standards self-management technique.

There’s no bonus round in real life, so make the one you have count.


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How to Deal When You’re Disappointed In Yourself

By Burnt Toast Creative

By Burnt Toast Creative

Creatives are no stranger to experiencing crushing disappointment. No matter your medium, it’s easy to equate your work with yourself, since your product is a reflection of your inner humanhood. Whenever you’re disappointed in something you’ve produced, or else your failure to actually produce that thing, that feeling of frustration may bleed into general dissatisfaction with yourself as a whole.

Of course, self-disappointment does nothing but further quash your motivation and productivity. If you feel like what you create is worthless or falls frustratingly short, you lose your inspiration to create anything at all. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits offers a few poignant suggestions for overcoming this feeling of not living up to your own standards, including:

See the Greatness of the Present

Let’s turn from the self we haven’t been, to the self we have been. This self might have “failed” at X, but it has also succeeded in lots of other ways. This self has tried. It has gotten a lot done. It’s not perfect, but it has good intentions. This self has been the best it can be, even if that means imperfection. This self has cared, has loved, has strived for better, has made an effort, has wanted the best for others. Not always, but it has. This self deserves that kind of recognition, and love for being the best self it can be….

Work with Curiosity

[G]oing forward, let’s practice tossing out our expectations of how we’re going to do today (and in life in general), and instead adopt an attitude of curiosity. We don’t know how we’re going to do at work, or in our relationships, or with our personal habits. We can’t know. So let’s find out: what will today be like? How will it go?

Be curious, in an attitude of not-knowingness.

It’s fun to find out things!

Yes, expectations will come up for us, and we will fail to live up to them, and we will feel frustration and disappointment again. This will happen, and this too will be a bit disappointing, because we want to be perfect at being curious and present. We’ll have to repeat the process when we notice this happening. That’s OK. That’s how it works — constantly renewing, never done.

But as we get better at this, I promise, we’ll learn to see things with a new curiosity, with a gratitude for every moment that we meet, and with a more loving and kind view of constantly failing but constantly striving selves. These selves are wonderful, and that realization is worth the ever-constant journey.

This combination of mindfulness, self-compassion, and curiosity enables you to move forward in your creative process and continue thinking and making. To take it one step further, you can dig out of a self-disappointment hole completely, as you use the above tactics, by removing direct internal fault-finding from the equation. As Janet Choi comments on what psychologist Ethan Kross has found, avoiding the first person, and addressing yourself as “you” instead, can have powerful positive consequences in silencing that inner critic:

When you get out of “me,” “myself,” and “I,” you mentally gain distance from yourself and get out of your own head. Much like you can gain perspective on a piece of art by stepping back a few feet, you can gain added insight on your thought process by putting some mental distance between your present mindset and your typical nervous, anxious self.

As you’re focusing, per Babauta, on thinking about your next project with a sense of possibility and openness, do so by asking yourself, “Who are you most excited to talk to about this piece?” or suggesting in your head, “You should carve out an hour tomorrow morning to work on this first thing, while you’re fresh.”

Just as you require multiple artistic implements at your disposal to complete a creative project, you need a variety of self-help techniques in your toolkit to conquer inner disappointment.


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When You Should Design “Badly” On Purpose

By Yen Divinagracia

By Yen Divinagracia

As a talented creative, you probably shudder at the thought of purposely designing something badly. Why would you possibly do such a thing, other than out of passive aggressiveness towards an infuriating client? (Bad idea.) UX content strategist Jerry Chao suggests that purposely designing badly can be a great tactic for conquering creative block:

There’s a big difference between having no good ideas, and no ideas at all. Chances are, the more bad ideas you have, the more pressure you apply to come up with good ideas. In these cases, the best way to beat designer’s block is to get all the bad ideas out of your system.

Try designing a mockup in which you make all the wrong decisions on purpose. You may find it strangely productive.

For starters, you’re exercising your design muscles a lot more than just staring at a blank screen: designing badly is better than not designing at all. On a deeper level, designing a purposefully bad mockup forces you to think critically on the same topics, but from a different perspective. If you can figure out the worst place to stick a call-to-action, for example, that will shed some light on the best place. This kind of productive distraction allows you to think about solutions without actually thinking about them.

This process uses the same mental muscles as when an editor considers a piece of writing by placing it upside down or backwards, forcing him- or herself to focus on the bare bones of the work: paragraph structure, word choice, syntax. The technique makes it impossible to glaze over while reading, and can surface interesting patterns or qualities of the work.

Coming at a project from an intentionally awkward angle can offer a refreshing new viewpoint that affords that much-anticipated creative breakthrough. Just don’t publish your bad-on-purpose project to your portfolio–at least without an explanation of the exercise.


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