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Calculating the Optimal Workday Length

Calculating the Optimal Workday Length

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization 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

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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