Wouldn’t it be amazing if you have to work only 6 hours each day and achieve amazing productivity in the workplace? You can then spend rest of your day doing stuff you love. That seems like a distant dream. But you will soon discover how to turn that dream into reality.
This kind of workday has become so much a part of my life that I call it “the 6-hours workday“.
The 6 hours workday methodology has two stages:
Stage 1: Planning & preparation – In this stage, you plan and prepare for the 6 hours workday, on the previous day.
Stage 2: The Action Day – The day followed by planning & preparation day, when you actually work for 6 hours.
Lets get started with Stage 1, which is – Planning & Preparation.
Stage I: Planning & Preparation
On the previous day, you plan your 6-hours day by complete 3 tasks.
Task 1: Motivate
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 enough. Are you going to play music, read your favorite novel or simply hang out with family & 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 (Do not mess with HR department or your boss by demanding a 6 hours work day!).
Task 2: Visualize
Our mind can accomplish anything if we visualize it clearly. Visualizing your day isn’t so complicated. Here is how you do it:
Think about a very productive day you had in past. Imagine that day is going to repeat tomorrow – in a much better way. Visualize how your meetings are productive, work is getting done and you are getting quicker responses from co-workers. Strongly thinking and visualizing about something creates a ripple effect in people around you. And this has worked again and again for me. This may sound philosophical, but you will be quite amazed with the results.
Task 3: Prioritize
Aiming to do 10 things during a day is surest recipe to not get anything done. Come out of the “do-it-all” super-human mentality. Realistically speaking, you are going to have a few surprises during the day and you need to keep extra bandwidth to deal with them.
Follow Tim Ferriss’ advice on prioritization – Focus on the minimum to achieve maximum.
Write down 1-3 things making you most anxious or uncomfortable. You can ask yourself a couple of questions – “If I accomplish at least one of these 3 things tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my day?” OR “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”
This is it. We are done with the planning and preparation. Now comes the day of real Action!
Stage II: The Day of Action
After reaching the office, check your calendar and see if you have important meetings lined up. Do NOT check email. I repeat, do not check your email. Stay calm, nothing is going to happen. Without worrying about communication or friendly chit-chat, move over to your first task.
Task 1: Rapid sprint to finish your Priority #1
The first thing you will do is to tackle the most important tasks for the day as quickly as possible. Give yourself a short deadline to force immediate action for the task. Tell everyone around you that you are working on a very important task and prefer not to be disturbed. Put your cell-phone on DND.
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.
You have just spent first couple of hours productively. Well beginning is half done.
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.
Task 2: Rapid E-mailing
Depending on the volume of emails 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:
- Reply to less than 2 minutes e-mail quickly and archive them (Over 70% of useful emails can be wrapped up in 2 minutes each)
- E-mail requiring longer reply or some more details should be moved to “Reply Later” label/folder.
- Any reference information or useful content should be downloaded to your local computer (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 the inbox to zero is important to get your mind free from emails.
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. Remember you have shorter workday and you need to move on!
Task 3: Handle the smaller tasks and begin wrapping 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 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 back to home with the reward of 2 extra hours and have fun!
With a systematic action plan and disciplined work, 6-hours work day is not only possible, it’s actually more productive and fun.
What has been your experience with a shorter workday? Do you think shorter workdays can be much more productive & fun?