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Minimize Work: Cut Your Work Week in Half in 6 Steps

Minimize Work: Cut Your Work Week in Half in 6 Steps
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    Let’s assume for a moment that you work too much and you’re not that happy with that arrangement. You’d like to work as little as possible, maximize the time you do work, and make time for the stuff that really matters for you — your loved ones, your passions, exercise, hobbies, fun.

    It’s possible. It’s not easy, and it takes some sacrifices, but if you really work at it, you can cut your work week in half.

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    It will require you to step back and re-design your work life. It will require some major life changes. But they are worth the effort. Here’s how to do it, in six steps:

    1. Become super valuable. If you’re not already one of the top performers in your company, or an expert or extremely knowledgeable in a valuable area, this will be your first priority. You must become extremely valuable. This will mean that you’ll need to educate yourself, at work and after hours, and dedicate yourself to learning a skill set that most people do not have. This could take months, if you don’t already have a jump in this area. Burn the midnight oil, educate yourself on weekends, find a mentor, read books and websites, and practice. If you work at it, you can become an expert and have a skill set that will be valuable not just at your workplace, but wherever you decide to go.

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    2. Work for yourself. Once you’re super valuable, you’ve got what it takes to quit your job. Why give all this value to a company when you could be giving it to yourself? Cut out the middleman and hire out your services directly. As an interim step, you could do this as a side business while still working for your job. Or better yet, convince your work to let you work from home, reduce your salary and hours, and start up your side business while still getting a steady (if reduced) income from your regular job. Just be sure this isn’t a conflict of interest with your day job — you don’t want to get into any ethical tangles. If you’re super valuable, your day job will allow you to work from home rather than lose you.

    3. Raise your rates. In order to support your lifestyle on half your work week, you’ll need to make the same (or more) money while working fewer hours. This means you’ll need to make a higher pay per hour. Figure out what you’ll need to make per month, divide that by the number of hours you want to work, and that’s your new hourly rate. If that’s way too high compared to the industry average, you’ll need to either be way better than everyone else, or you’ll need to find a way to lower your income needs. You can do this by reducing your spending and your overhead costs. Simplify to work less.

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    4. Know your biggest ROI tasks. Which are the tasks that will really make you money, that will make a name for you, that will give you the most bang for your buck? Find those truly valuable Most Important Tasks (MITs) each week and each day, and you will know what you need to concentrate on. Eliminate as much of the rest of your tasks (and distractions) as possible, and cut your work down to these MITs. Be brutal. If it’s not going to make you a lot of money, or pay off big time for you in the long term, eliminate it.

    5. Set your hours. OK, you’ve done a lot of work to get to this step, but you’re now at that beautiful stage where you can control your work week. How many hours do you want to work? Don’t consider how many you think you need to work. Only consider how many you want to work. Now plot those hours in your work day and your work week. This is your new work schedule. Isn’t it wonderful? This is the payoff for the work in the first four steps.

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    6. Focus. OK, you’ve set your dream work week, and you know what tasks you should be doing during those hours (your MITs), and you’ve set a pay rate that’s high enough to support you financially. Now you just need to do the MITs within the hours you set. To do this, you’ll need to eliminate all distractions. Yes, ALL distractions. Email, feeds, IM, Twitter, Digg, forums, phone calls, TV, DVDs. Everything. Clear the clutter from your work space. Turn off all computer notifications. Now really do those tasks. If you’ve simplified your task list down to your MITs for the day, you don’t even need to worry about your productivity system. Just crank it out. Set a timer and really get into the flow of your work.

    And when you’re done with your MITs, log your billable work, and get away from the computer. Go out and enjoy life.

    Leo Babauta blogs regularly about achieving goals and becoming productive through daily habits on Zen Habits. Read his articles on Zen To Done (ZTD), the Top 50 Productivity Blogs, doubling your productivity, keeping your inbox empty, becoming an early riser, and the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

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    Leo Babauta

    Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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