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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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Published on April 8, 2021

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

Want to know what Steve Jobs thought was the ultimate key in achieving success?

“Focus and simplicity… once you get there, you can move mountains.”—Steve Jobs

And this belief is even more important today than it was years ago. At your fingertips is a literal world of information and entertainment. So, it’s no wonder we all have such wandering minds nowadays.

Thanks to the internet and smartphones, attention is practically a currency we should be more budget-minded about. In fact, a person who can stay focused is not only more likely to get more done but also be more satisfied at the end of the day because of it.

Going further, a person who’s focused will more easily achieve their goals—anything from losing 20 pounds to getting a promotion at work is within the reach of this type of person.

So, in the spirit of that idea, here are 10 ways to tame that wandering mind of yours and turn it into a laser-focused brain that gets things done.

1. Find Your Totem

Remember the totem in the movie, Inception? It’s an item that reminded people they weren’t in a dream when they touched it, and it was able to keep them grounded in reality.

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You can replicate this idea when it comes to staying focused as well. All you’ve to got to do is find something to be your “focus totem,” and it’ll remind you that you should stop daydreaming and get back to work. Ideally, it’s something you can see and touch.

In the movie, a chess piece and a spinning top were used—both are good ideas. You could also use a picture of your family, a mini trophy, or even wear a ring to focus your mind as well. (In fact, a green lantern ring might be kind of cool for this.)

2. Promise a Reward

Incentives are an obvious way to go. Having gold at the end of any journey makes you want to press forward just for the sweet results. In general, rewards should correlate to the difficulty/length of the work.

For example:

  • Finish a quick house chore = a piece of chocolate
  • Complete an annoying administrative task = 10 minutes of Youtube
  • A successful day of work = a whole movie on Netflix

Pretty simple stuff, right? But you’d be surprised how often you forget to reward yourself for doing solid work on the regular.

3. Make It Stupid Easy for Your Wandering Mind

I don’t know about you, but if I perceive my work to require more effort than I care to use, I’m instantly turned off. This then leads to distraction and procrastination. But you can offset this by breaking a difficult task into a bite-sized piece.

Case in point, what seems easier: 30 pushups or 3 pushups?

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It’s obvious, but sometimes our brains need to be “convinced” we’re only doing a small amount of work to get things going.

But here’s something cool about this tactic: You can (and most likely will) keep going past your stupid easy benchmark. You don’t have to, but my experience tells me once you get going like this, it’s easy to go beyond your bare minimum goal.

4. Empty Your Mind With Journaling

Sometimes, there’s too much stuff floating around in your brain that is making your mind wander. In that case, it can help to spill everything in your head onto a journal to free up some space. You can use a pen and pad for this or something digital like Evernote.

There are two basic ways to go about it:

  1. Freestyle – where you just write whatever randomly flows through your brain without thinking or pausing. This is great if you’ve got a million different ideas racing through your brain.
  2. Focused – where you create prompts or an outline to streamline your thinking and you just respond to the questions or format. This is best when you want to grasp a certain topic.

5. Use the “Just 5 Minutes” Method

Try telling yourself that you’ll work for “just 5 minutes” and then you can stop. You’ll find that the task feels far easier to handle. And like the “stupid easy” method, this tricks your brain into thinking the task is lower effort than it really is. After all, 5 minutes for even the worst task is psychologically manageable for any person out there.

The key is to honestly allow yourself to stop at 5 minutes—no matter what. That’s what allows your brain to accept the method as legit and also lets it overcome the mental hurdle that makes your brain want to wander around and focus on anything but your task.

6. Recite a Focus Mantra

I like to think of mantras as a totem you can take with you anywhere you go. They serve the same purpose—reminding you to stay focused—but can be done anywhere and anytime.

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I find the most powerful type of mantra to be based on reality. I learned this approach from Dr. Jon Fader—a performance coach who was on “Good Morning America”—and his book Life as Sport: What Top Athletes Can Teach You about How to Win in Life. He calls this “objective optimism.”

Basically, you create a mantra that’s based on personal success in your life. That way, the mantra isn’t just a fluffy positivity statement, there’s also the weight of real-life success giving it power

Some examples:

  • If you’re struggling to make yourself go to the gym but have technically been there many times already, you could say, “just another day of heading to the gym—easy.”
  • If you’re suffering from impostor-syndrome after accepting a promotion, just say, “I’m here for a reason” to remind yourself that your efforts were recognized by others and are the real deal.
  • If you’re nervous about an upcoming sports competition but have trained diligently for it, you could say, “I’ve done all the work possible” to remind yourself that your earlier efforts have created the best version of you for the event.

As you can see, the most powerful mantras are evidence-based and positive. So, just find proof of relevant success in your life and transform it into a motivating mantra.

7. Use the “Multi-Yawn” Approach

One of the best ways to be distracted is to be tired. And sometimes, you’ll be tired in such a way that you’re “sort of” working but not realize that you’re actually constantly distracted.

If you can notice when you do this, one thing I like to do is crank out as many big, satisfying yawns as possible. Olympic athletes sometimes do this before their big events. It calms them down and helps them perform better in the process. And it works just as well for us regular folks. I find it has a similar effect to taking a good nap (and actually works best in unison), so you can imagine how effective this can be.

8. Find an Easy Win

Nothing feels good like winning. So, it can help to find a few simple tasks you can do with little effort and just get them done immediately. This will create momentum and propel your productivity forward. The feeling of success will lock your focus in on the task at hand and refocus your wandering mind. Use this when you feel “resistance” to getting your work started.

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9. Create a “Wins” List

Feeling like a capable person who can win at life is motivating in and of itself. In light of this fact, it can help to have an ongoing “wins” list to prove you’re an able person.

Just keep track of all your daily wins—big and small. And whenever your focus starts to wane, give that list a peek and remind yourself that you’re more capable than you realize.

10. Add Stakes to the Mix

If you were to lose $20 if you failed to complete a task, would you be more focused on completing it? Of course!

Try and find ways to put something on the line when it comes to completing your tasks, and you’ll find your focus, motivation, and ability to things done to be higher than ever before.

For example, if you’re at work, you could involve a co-worker by saying you’ll buy their food if you don’t complete a task before lunchtime rolls around. At home, you could say you’ll also mow the lawn if you don’t remember to wash the dishes before the day is over. Or you could just use something like Beeminder or TaskRatchet, which actually charges you cash for failing to complete a task or goal on time. (It’s scary but effective)

All are viable methods, so just give one of them a shot.

Who Else Wants More Success?

Of the many methods of winning at life out there, focusing is definitely a top-three contender. You can’t get anything you want in life if you don’t buckle down and get your work done—a wandering mind won’t create success.

But with these 10 focus tips, you’ll be ahead of the competition and be closer to a fitter body, higher income, and a flat-out better life than before.

More Tips on Sharpening Your Focus

Featured photo credit: Clay Banks via unsplash.com

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