Advertising
Advertising

Calculating the Optimal Workday Length

Calculating the Optimal Workday Length

time

    There’s a lot of information out there on achieving work-life balance, and a common productivity suggestion is that you structure your workday. I’ve found that one invaluable tool for getting these two things dealt with effectively is knowing not just how much work you have to do of what kind each day, but how long to work for.

    This article is most relevant to freelancers and entrepreneurs since employers often dictate how many hours you should work for regardless of what you think — so the suggestions in this article will accommodate that group of people.

    Determining the Factors

    How long a person needs to work is going to be different for everyone. Everyone’s situation is different to some degree or another; if you’re a successful freelancer or entrepreneur you can outsource your admin work or even some or all of the work you do to deliver the service that you actually provide. If you’re starting your own freelance business, then you will probably be working grueling hours doing all the admin, heaps of marketing, and as much work as you can possibly find.

    I’m not going to be a work-life balance nancy and tell you that you should never work long, grueling hours. It’s a necessary part of building a bootstrapped business for many of us. Depending on how things are set up, maintaining a business may be a long and grueling effort each day.

    Advertising

    What’s important is that you accept the state of affairs and make a plan that’ll change that unfortunate situation when you’ve got things going.

    Let’s take a look at the first set of factors: the tasks you need to complete.

    Admin

    Admin work can be the most dull and time-consuming work ever, but unfortunately, it’s very much a necessity if you want to get paid or keep those nasty tax auditors away. Each day you need to deal with email from clients and other people who have something to do with your work. You need to track expenses and income in your books and all those unpleasant bookkeeping and accounting tasks.

    Make sure you give yourself time to handle these things each day or they may end up getting swept aside until the last minute — which may turn into an all-nighter.

    Review

    Review is the tool we use to keep ourselves productive each day — the review of tasks and projects — and to keep our businesses growing — the review of the business’s direction and overarching goals.

    Advertising

    Often lumped in with admin, I think reviewing your tasks and your business goals should be treated as its own priority and given its own time on both a daily and weekly basis.

    Marketing

    The work without which there’d be no work. Keeping your name out there and potential clients in the pipeline doesn’t put food on the table — it ensures that when you finish the projects that are currently putting food on the table, there’ll be others to take their place! In other words, it ensures you stay in business (and fed).

    Never neglect marketing, even if you swamp yourself with clients. This is why many freelancers claim to experience the “drought or flood” syndrome where there are either plenty of clients or none. In tough times you market like crazy and as a result, eventually get a whole bunch of clients. Then you’re so swamped that you don’t market — and when those projects are done, you’re left with very little work.

    The Work

    I like to think that at least 60% of the workday should consist of performing the actual work you are in business to perform. If you’re a writer, you should spend 60% of the day writing, designers should spend 60% of the day designing, and so on. More than that is better. Through the proper use of systems and automation I was spending 90-95% of my workday on “The Work” as a freelancer.

    If you’re in a creative field, remember that “The Work” time may include sitting on a couch creating ideas. It may not look like work, but it sure as hell is.

    Advertising

    Life Factors

    Work and life are like armies at war — they’re always fighting for ground, pushing one another book. So, after looking at the demands work puts on your time, let’s flip the coin and see what life might demand. Never factor just your work tasks into the equation — consider what you need to do outside of work as well.

    Family & Home

    It’s terribly easy to forget and neglect family matters when you’re working hard, especially when you don’t have anyone but yourself to depend on to keep the money coming in.

    The end result is never, ever pretty. It’s no joke that not budgeting time for family time can destroy the relationships you have and it may mean you end up seeing your kids once every second weekend on visitation. Drop clients if you have to make room for this one.

    On a lighter note, it’s only fair that you do the dishes once in a while, and maybe even put something in the washing machine!

    Social Life

    It’s a bit sad but there have been times in my life as a freelancer where the only people I saw for a week where the people I lived with. I had so much work I could barely find the time to talk to those people, let alone leave the house and socialize! It’s important to do so, though. There are a whole bunch of longwinded studies that basically boil down to this: not socializing makes you crazy. Nobody hires crazy people anymore.

    Advertising

    Relaxation & Downtime

    Relaxation and downtime is not the same as socializing. Often, you need time to yourself, to do things you enjoy whether that’s reading a book, knitting, watching Seinfeld re-runs or fighting something in an MMORPG. Take the time to immerse yourself in activities you enjoy to relax and entertain yourself.

    Hobbies & Commitments

    If you are in some sort of community organization, or have a hobby like martial arts, you probably need to consider the regular events you need to attend when working out your daily working hours. If you can’t keep up your commitments, it might be best to relieve yourself of them rather than become known as “the unreliable one.”

    The Lifestyle You Want to Create

    The most important factor above all is that there’s a certain lifestyle everyone wants to create and it has a big influence on how long you work each day and what you do in order to make that happen. If you want to work short hours or you want to work normal hours but on a strange schedule when everyone else is asleep, that’s great. You just need to decide on how many hours you want to work each day and make a plan to achieve that.

    More by this author

    The Importance of Scheduling Downtime How to Make Decisions Under Pressure 11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage 19 Free GTD Apps for Windows, Mac & Linux

    Trending in Lifestyle

    1 How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck 2 How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries 3 How to Manage Anxiety: Sound Advice from a Mental Health Expert 4 How to Start Eating Healthy No Matter How Old You Are 5 Understanding Intermittent Fasting Benefits: More Than Just Weight Loss

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

    Advertising

    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

    Advertising

    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

    Advertising

    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

    Advertising

    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

    Read Next