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The Four-Day Week Challenge

Over on A List Apart, Ryan Carson has an interesting article advocating a four-day working week as the solution to always having too much work to do.

Given that no matter how many hours you spend working there will always be more work to do (especially if you work for yourself and enjoy what you do), it does make a lot of sense to control your working hours to ensure a reasonable life balance.

When I first founded Stairways back in 1995, I worked seven long days a week. It didn‘t really take long to realize that your productivity drops when you work this much. Your brain needs time to recharge, time to think and plan and solve problems, and for the most part it does it better when you‘re not looking. I didn‘t go as far as Ryan, but I did restrict myself to working a more normal 9-6, five day working week and was much better for it.

So whether you take Ryan‘s challenge or not, if you‘re currently working crazy hours (like my brother!), seriously consider restricting yourself to a more sensible work/life balance. No one ever wanted their tombstone to say “He worked a lot”.

Posted Wednesday, May 10, 2006. Permalink. 2 Comments.


It is unfortunately true that with no time to recharge productivity drops, but I was wondering: even with this drop in productivity, can you manage to do as much in a 5-day week than with a 7-day (less productive) one?

Posted Thursday, May 11, 2006 06:10 AM by Corentin. Request Moderation.

There are two sides to the question I think. The first half is “can you manage to do as much?” and the second half is “does it matter?”.

I think the first question depends on what you are doing. For some jobs, especially creative jobs like programming which are more about working smarter than working longer, I think you definitely could get as much done in four or five days as in seven days a week. The thing about such jobs is that the variation in productivity is enormous from person to person and from week to week. Some programmers are ten times more effective than others (literally, they can get a job done in a tenth of the time, and certainly could single handily get a job done that ten other programmers could not).

For other jobs, for example answering support emails, it would be more questionable as to whether you could get as much done. And for other jobs, say painting or plumbing, I would be very surprised if you could get as much done in a four day week as a five or seven day week.

But I think the crux of the question is really, does it matter? A large part of the point of Ryan’s article was that there will always be more work to do. On the other hand, there will not always be more time to spend with your wife, or (perhaps even more so) kids.

Posted Thursday, May 11, 2006 11:51 PM by Peter N Lewis. Request Moderation.

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