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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Not Ideal to Make a Living Today

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Not Ideal to Make a Living Today

In the early 1900s, Henry Ford needed to hire factory workers for his exploding auto empire. So, he took a unique path to attract his employees: by offering them an eight-hour workday.

Ford’s proposition of a 9-5 gig in a car factory may not seem all that alluring now, but his logic was quite innovative for the time.

A hundred and twenty years ago, most workers were accustomed to grueling shifts of 12 hours or more. Working a mere eight hours at Henry Ford’s factory probably felt like a vacation—one that, thanks to more alert workers, also bolstered productivity and output.

Fast forward 120 or so years, and working 9 to 5 (or some variation of it) has become the norm. But just because a 9-to-5 gig is standard practice doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee for efficiency, productivity, or employee happiness.

In the last few decades, as technology has advanced, work hours have remained the same—potentially at a cost to workers and their companies. It’s time to revisit work schedule expectations and reap the benefits of autonomy along with it.

Here are four reasons why working 9 to 5 isn’t ideal to make a living today.

1. Humans Aren’t Machines

In Ford’s day, maximum output was the key to success. The more cars you built during a shift, the more successful you were—and workers on the assembly line were just another cog in the overall wheel of production.

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But now, most of us don’t assemble Model T’s in factories. And there’s just no magic formula to guarantee maximum output or effectiveness.

“The idea that employees are like machines—if they put eight hours in you’ll get x dollars out—is absurd,” Ryan Carson, CEO of Treehouse, told Inc.[1]

Humans aren’t machines. That means not every person’s rhythms and the skills required for their jobs will mesh with a traditional, 9-5 work schedule. Yes, working 9 to 5 every day might empower one employee for success. But a traditional schedule could also quench another person’s ability to tap into other skills, like creativity, innovation, or teamwork.

I’ll be the first to say there’s a time and place for office hours. Whenever possible, I highly value having team members together to collaborate (plus, scheduling meetings is convenient when everyone’s in the office at the same time).

But I don’t see my “office hours” as the most important part of my job. Actually, some of my best ideas come to me when I’m not at my desk. I often brainstorm while hiking on weekends or while at the gym early in the morning. When these unexpected ideas creep up on me, I carve out time to get work done—and it’s usually not between 9 and 5.

With a bit of flexibility, workers can determine when they do their best work, and then plan accordingly. That’s why one CEO allows his employees to pick between four 10-hour days or five eight-hour days, and why many companies are following suit—the goal is to let go of rigidity in favor of flexibility and all the benefits that come with it.

To determine what type of work schedule is ideal for you to do your job well, think about when you do your best work. When are you most creative and alert? When do you feel most motivated?

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You might be more productive and creative first thing in the morning. If that’s the case, work then. On the other hand, if the late evening hours fuel your best ideas, carve out a few hours of work time before bed.

2. Flexibility Increases Productivity

Flexibility at work isn’t just a nice add-on to a benefits package or a positive aspect of workplace culture. In fact, I’ve come to believe flexibility is essential for the success of both employees and companies.

Think about a time in your life you adhered to a rigid, predictable work schedule, whether or not by any decision of your own. Next, reflect on a time when you worked more hours than you wanted to, just to meet a demanding supervisor’s expectations for your role.

How happy were you during that time of life? And be honest, how well did you really do at your job? Did you enjoy showing up every day, or did you dread “clocking in”?

If you’ve experienced burnout before (or if you’re in the midst of it now), you will probably be happy to hear that working too much isn’t just bad for you. It’s also not good for your employer’s bottom line. There’s evidence that the more hours you work, the less productive you will be.[2]

On the flip side, it’s happier workers who actually do the best work. That’s right: Your brain actually works better when you’re content.[3]

It follows, then, that when people have time for a personal life—to pursue hobbies, invest in relationships, and get a good night’s sleep—they’ll be better workers as a result.[4]

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3. Flexibility Enhances Focus

Another argument against working 9 to 5: The constraints of a traditional “day job” schedule could keep people from focusing on the work in front of them.

If you’re someone who works well under the pressure of a deadline, then you understand how your most productive workdays aren’t necessarily your longest ones.

I know the feeling. Personally, I tend to lose focus and momentum when I’m stuck at my computer for too many hours. As the day drags on, my attention and interest in the tasks at hand dwindle little by little.

There may be something psychological at play in either scenario. In their book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, authors Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir argue that having less time to get something done heightens productivity by increasing focus. The idea is that constraints force strategy, which leads to better (and often, more) work.

A flexible work schedule yields benefits for employees and employers alike. If you constrain yourself to a shorter (or simply more flexible) workday, you’ll have more incentive to manage your time well, which means high-priority tasks and projects will receive priority.

4. Working From Home Adds New Distractions and Demands

Life today feels unfamiliar to many of us, and our work is no exception. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, many employees are working from their homes instead of at the office—and forcing remote workers to adhere to the same 9-5 work hours they held in the office may not make sense.

Generally, with a new environment, you can’t expect people to play by the same rules. For one thing, many employees might want to start the day sooner or later than usual, without the burden of commuting to and from the office.

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On the other hand, doing one’s job from a home office presents all kinds of new distractions, from taking care of kids and pets to the allure of a midday nap on the couch.

It’s not just the work environment that’s shifted due to the pandemic but also the workers’ abilities to meet the demands of their jobs in general.

Take parents, for example, who may now be responsible for taking care of a toddler or overseeing their kids’ distance learning along with juggling the demands of their jobs. With these new demands in the work environment, a traditional 9-5 schedule simply isn’t a fair, or realistic, expectation.

Final Thoughts

Flexibility enables these worn-down workers to focus on the most important things in their lives—their well-being and the health of their families—so they can in turn bring their best to work to the table.

It might take time for the culture to catch up to modern realities—legend has it, it took an auto tycoon to change the norm more than a century ago. But in my book, the perks of autonomy at work are a win-win for everyone.

More on New Ways of Working

Featured photo credit: Matthew Henry via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

You sit at your desk, ready to finally get some work done. “Okay, lets do this,” you think to yourself. You scroll over to Word (or Excel, or Office, etc.) and open up a fresh document. You have some idea of what needs to be done, but what happens next?

You write a few words down but just can’t stay focused. Then you say “Maybe I should wake myself up with something fun.” You go to Facebook, 20 minutes gone. Then comes Youtube, 60 minutes gone. Before you know it, lunchtime has come and half the day is gone.

Does this seem familiar? Do you ever find yourself wasting your day?

Well it doesn’t have to be this way, all you need to do is focus on finishing this article to find out how to not get distracted easily.

But before we move on to the tips, here’re some important notes you need to know:

  • Avoiding distraction is tough. You’re not alone when it comes to distractions. It’s not easy staying on task when you need to work for hours at a time, but some people are able to do it. The question is: why them and not you?
  • You were never taught how to focus. It’s funny how all throughout our school days we were never taught HOW to learn and be focused, even though that’s all we did. It was just assumed, and ultimately it was hit or miss on whether or not you ended up knowing how to do those things at all.
  • The tools to help master your ability to focus. Since everyone’s left to their own devices, it’s up to you to find ways to master your focus ability. That’s what these tips are for, so you can finally stay focused and on track with what we want to accomplish for ourselves.

So without further ado, let’s get started. 

1. Keep Your Vision and Goals in Mind

First things first, why do you even need to focus? Do you want to become a skilled guitar player? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to start working from home?

Think about it.

Knowing why we need to stay focused can help us push through the tough and tedious parts of accomplishing our goals. That’s when our ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed.

2. Reduce the Chaos of Your Day by Focusing on 2 to 3 Important Tasks

If you have 20 tasks you need done everyday how effective do you think your focus ability will be? Terrible, right?

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You can’t expect to do those things with sophistication if you’re too scatterbrained to focus. You need to break it down to the essentials.

Focus on only doing 2-3 important tasks a day (even one is okay), but no more than that. It’s all you need to take steps towards accomplishing your goals. Slower is much better than giving up early because you took on too much, too early.

3. Do Those Tasks as Soon as Possible

In order to make sure you get those 2 to 3 tasks done, you need to do them early. This means as soon as you wake up, you’re already plotting how to do them.

So get up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, and do it (Yes, BEFORE work is the best time to do it).

It’s tough, but waiting to do them only invites distraction to take over. Those distractions WILL come, and they will drain your willpower. This makes working on your goals harder to do, so don’t wait do work on your goals, do them as early as possible.

4. Focus on Only the Smallest Part of Your Work at a Time

An easy way to kill your focus is to see a goal for the big giant accomplishment that it is. Most goals will at least take a few weeks to months to accomplish, and knowing that can make it feel like it’ll take FOREVER to do.

This will cause you to do one of two things:

  • You become discouraged because the goal is too big; or
  • You fantasize about what it’ll feel like to achieve the goal

Either way is terrible for your focus and always a potential problem when focusing on the big picture or using visualization.

So what should you do? Focus on doing a very small, minimum amount of work instead.

For example, which seems easier:

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Writing 200 words per day or writing a minimum of 2 sentences per day?

20 pushups per day or a minimum of 1 pushup per day?

The key here is to use minimums. Chances are you’ll push past them.

Eventually your minimum will increase, and you’ll slowly improve your ability to stay focused on the bigger tasks.

5. Visualize Yourself Working

I briefly mentioned in tip #4 that visualization techniques can hurt you more than help you sometimes. But there is a proper way of using visualization, and it’s by visualizing yourself actually WORKING (not as if you’ve succeeded already).

Champion runners use this technique to great effect, usually by working backwards. They imagine themselves winning at first, then they act out the whole process in reverse, feeling and visualizing each step all the way to the beginning.

A quicker and more relevant way to apply this would be to imagine yourself doing a small part of the task at hand.

For instance, if you need to practice your guitar but it’s all the way across the room (let’s assume maximum laziness for the sake of this example), what should you do?

First, imagine standing up (really, think of the sensation of getting up and then do it). If you really imagined it, visualized and felt the act of standing up, then acting on that feeling will be easy.

Then repeat the visualization process with each step till you have that guitar in hand and you’re playing it. The process of focusing so intently on each step distracts you from how much you don’t want to do something, and the visualizations “ready your body” for each step you need done.

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All you need to do is apply this process to whatever it is you need to focus on, just start with the smallest motion you need to do.

6. Control Your Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are one of those problems you can’t really run away from. You need to find ways to prepare your mind for work, and find simple ways to keep it from straying to non-essential thoughts as well.

A good way to prime your mind for work is to have a dedicated work station. If you always work in a specific area, then your mind will associate that area with work related thoughts.

Simple enough, right? When you take breaks make sure to leave your work station, that way you’ll know when you’re “allowed” to let your thoughts roam free as well.

Deadlines are useful here also (use Pomodoro method for example, see tip #9). This method helps keep your mind from wandering around since you’ve got that looming deadline coming along.

Ultimately though, silencing those unwanted thoughts is all about getting some traction going. So instead of focusing on what’s happening internally, focus getting something done (anything!). Once you do that, you’ll see that all your thoughts will be about finishing your task.

7. Remove External Distractions

This tip is straightforward, just get away from things that distract you.

Is the television a distraction? Work in another room. Are the kids distracting you? Get up earlier and work before they wake up. Is the Internet distracting? Turn off the modem.

It’s usually obvious what you should do, but you still shouldn’t overlook this piece of advice.

8. Skip What You Don’t Know

This is a tip I don’t see often enough, if you hit a snag in your work then come back to it later. Focus your attention on what you CAN do, keep working “mindlessly” at all costs. All this means is that you should focus on the easy parts first.

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Eventually you can come back to the more difficult parts, and hopefully by then it’ll have come to you or you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your focus if you work on it.

9. Improve Your Discipline With Focus Practice

There’s a few focus exercises you can do to improve your overall discipline.

The first one is meditation, which is basically the definition of focus in practice. Think about it, you’re literally just sitting there doing nothing. It’s a great method for building focus ability, de-stressing, and giving you greater control over your emotions. You should definitely give meditation a shot.

The second exercise is the Pomodoro method. These are basically “focus sprints,” and each one is followed by a solid break. Like real sprints, you’ll get better and better at doing them over time. Each interval improves your ability to stay focused when it matters, so it’s more than worth your time to try this out.

10. Manage Your Momentum

Momentum is like a discipline lubricant‒it helps ease the process of sticking with goals. That’s why I think it’s important that we never take true breaks from our goals; we end up losing momentum and relying on discipline to get back on track (not an easy thing to do).

This means each and everyday we need to do something significant to further our goals (yes, even weekends and holidays). And when I say “significant,” I don’t necessarily mean a big task‒but rather, any task that brings us closer to our goals.

For instance, if your goal is to be a freelance writer, then write one single pitch on a weekend. If your goal is get healthy, then go for a short 5 minute walk even on Christmas day.

Nothing big, nothing crazy, only stuff that is significant enough to contribute to the success of your overall goal.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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