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.

  • http://www.highperformancelifestyle.net/ 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.

    • http://www.quanology.org/ 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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Information Overload? Embrace “Intentional Ignorance”

Close-Minded by Luis Prado from the Noun Project

Close-Minded by Luis Prado from the Noun Project

The availability of information in the digital age is overwhelming. For every mesmerizing Instagram profile you browse, there are hundreds of millions more. For every page of search results you scroll down, there are thousands upon thousands beyond that one. For every article you read or RSS feed you subscribe to on a research topic, you could spend the rest of your career consuming more where those came from, and never reach the end.

Writer Sarah Von Bargen discovered the magic of “intentional ignorance” when she clicked “mark all as read” in her RSS reader:

[T]his temporary ‘opting out’ has increased my productivity and cleared my mind like nothing else.

You see, I’m deep in ‘creation mode’ at the moment… And all those great articles and clever blog posts and super helpful tutorials that I usually read aren’t helping me get any closer my goals. In fact, they’re distracting and misdirecting me. …

So I’m making the decision to safeguard my focus and productivity. I’m putting the proverbial blinders on and keeping my eyes on my own paper. …

Intentional Ignorance gives you space to do your best work. It frees up mental energy for big, exciting projects. It allows you to focus – with laser-like intensity – on one or two things. …

We all cycle through seasons in our lives and businesses – times when we’re seeking inspiration and insight and times when we need quiet single-mindedness and uninterrupted time. Take a look at where you are and what you’re doing and if you need to turn down the noise, go ahead and click ‘unfollow’ or ‘unsubscribe’ or even just ‘mark all as read.’

The internet will still be here when you get back.

Taking an information sabbatical is like giving yourself the gift of ignorance-as-bliss. What you don’t know that you don’t know can’t hurt you. You can adopt the principle of intentional ignorance even when you’re not in need of hyperfocus on a certain project. Set a monthly calendar reminder to scroll through all the content you’ve saved using your tool of choice—Pocket, Evernote, Pinterest, Google Docs—and delete anything that you’re not going to read right this second. Think you’ll get to those articles or videos at some point? As von Bargen points out,

I’m here to tell you that a) that won’t happen b) all those unread newsletters carry an immeasurable psychic weight. They make you feel bad just sitting there, all unread! Dude, delete them. That’s what Google is for.

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Stop Ending Your Client Emails With This Phrase

Remove email icon by Lloyd Humphreys from the Noun Project

Remove email icon by Lloyd Humphreys from the Noun Project

Over on the InVision blog, freelancer Robert Williams shares some valuable intel on how you can strengthen your client emails. He gleaned serious insights when he found client after client backing out or not replying to his messages, leaving him without work and increasingly stressed:

[T]here’s one huge problem that almost every freelancer I’ve met suffers from: they use a phrase that hurts their credibility and repels clients.

“Let me know how I can help.”

When I said this I honestly thought I was being helpful. I’d close almost every email with some variation of “Just let me know…” It felt like the right way to end an email. …

By ending my emails like this, I was dropping a wheelbarrow full of work on my client’s desk and saying “Here. You deal with it.” It reeked of incompetence. …

So I began to do the complete opposite and prescribe solutions at the end of every email. … Just by suggesting a next step at the end of my email, I was able to double the amount of people who responded to me.

This next step was different for every email, but it always followed the same 2-step structure. I would include:

– My suggested next step
– What we could do in the event they don’t want to do that

… If someone wanted a meeting, I’d suggest a time and instead of saying, “Let me know if this works for you.” I’d switch that out for, “If not, then X time/day also works or I’m free at X time/day.” …

You’re not just saving yourself the extra time of writing 2 separate emails, you’re saving you (and your client) the time in between these emails.

Williams suggests writing every single client email with whatever your next step is going to be in mind. Make every sentence reinforce that next step, whether it’s a confirmation of the deliverable you’ll be sending on a specific date, a request for feedback that you need by the next week, or an agenda for your upcoming call.

As Elizabeth Grace Saunders pointed out in a past 99U piece, effective people “always add value” with their email. She suggests that replying just for the sake of replying is a waste of time. Per both Williams’s and Saunders’s guidance, aim to always add something of communicative value to your email correspondence with clients. If you don’t, you’re making yourself more of a burden than a help.

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How to Be as Productive as Your High School Self

You in high school: a dramatization.

You in high school: a dramatization.

Impossible Ventures founder Joel Runyon was one of those high school overachievers who balances sports, extracurriculars, a social life, and an advanced course load all while making great grades and still having free time to, as he says, “jack around.”

Since you read 99U, you probably have at least a little of the high school overachiever in you, too. The challenge is tapping into that high-gear productivity DNA as an adult in the working world. It was so much easier to have it all back in high school. The barometer of success was much more clear-cut, and there was a substantial safety net just one stumble away. There were letter grades to measure your performance, and standardized tests to evaluate how capable you were compared to your peers. You had a much stricter schedule with less control over your daily routine, which established boundaries and limits that fed productivity.

With all that in mind, Runyon took a critical retrospective eye to his habits as a 16-year-old powerhouse, and came up with some helpful tips:

Make Your Lunch The Night Before

… Packing your lunch the night before is a good ritual. It helps you wind down for the evening and gets your body mentally ready to fall asleep, so the rest of the week can go according to plan. …

Get In Bed By Midnight

You can stay up as late as you want, as long as you’re in bed by midnight.

If you’re in bed by midnight, you’ll have no problem getting up at 5:30 or 6. If you’re in bed at 1am, you’ll sleep till noon. …

When School / Work Is Over, Leave

Don’t stay at work longer than you have to. I don’t stay at school longer than I have to. It’s practically a race out the doors. …

Schedules Make Things Real

… Practice? Write it in.

Hanging out? Know when your free time is (schedule it). …

Bonus: make sure you have people at each place who will hold you accountable. Show up late and you’ll be running suicides. …

Do It With Friends

Anything you do with friends will be 2x as much fun and will have 1/2 the stress than if you do it alone.

Even AP Physics can be fun – if you’re with the right people.

It may seem unattainable to reach your high school productivity levels given the added pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. But science shows that during high school you are poised biologically to be deeply impressed by your experiences while you also form your first sense of identity. So today, those helpful habits are primed for the plucking somewhere in your mental makeup. And this time, you can adopt them without the teenage acne and traumatizing bad haircut.

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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

hollywood

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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