October 21, 2015

A New Approach to Productivity: The Two-Hour Workday

Like a lot of people, I struggle with productivity.

I’m a multi-tasker who easily gets distracted by social media, email and reading content. It is an inefficient, undisciplined and frustrating reality. To deal with it, I have tried a variety of solutions such as limiting email to certain times and using the Pomodoro technique to work in short spurts. Sadly, none of them worked as planned.

But there is good news: I may have landed upon a new approach (fingers crossed!) that may drive personal productivity and, as important, eliminate the stress that comes along with being a busy multi-tasker.

two hour workday

It works by creating a two-hour creative block during the day to accomplish major tasks. During this period, I focus on the work that needs to be done. There are no distractions from email, social media, content, text, phone calls, meetings, coffee or conversations. It’s 120 minutes of work and getting stuff done.

Here’s why I think this approach will be effective:

  1. It is a more realistic way to work, especially for people doing creative work. It is about allocating time to do your best work, rather than trying to be creative all day. The key is picking your best two-hour slot. Some people do amazing work in the morning while others perform better at night when there are fewer distractions. It does not matter when the work is done, it matters that the work gets done.
  2. It eliminates the stress of trying to be constantly productive for major chunks of the day. There is so much attention on the need to be productive that it is easy to get discouraged if you feel unproductive. It is like you’re doing something wrong or can’t play the game the right way. By giving yourself permission to be productive for two hours a day, it’s not only more realistic but healthier mentally.
  3. It is a good alternative to the standard eight-hour day or people who think work is a 24/7 activity. Let’s face it, it is difficult to work efficiently all the time. Everyone gets distracted and focused on non-work things. I think many people believe more is better when it comes to work. It’s the quantity versus quality approach, which I believe isn’t effective.
  4. By working two hours a day, it leaves the rest of the day wide open for meetings, errands, surfing the Web, going for coffee, brainstorming, etc. You have the freedom to do these activities without having to worry about whether they are taking you away from work.
  5. It lets you tackle projects with all my mental and creative powers. For example, I now set aside two hours on the weekend for writing blog posts. In two hours, I can write two or three blog posts for the following week. It lets me spend the rest of the weekend doing personal/family activities and, as important, there’s no stress during the week to write blog posts.

It has only been a few weeks since I embraced the two-hour creative block approach, but it feels like a better to work. It is refreshing and rewarding to emerge from two hours with lots of work completed.

To be honest, it has been a struggle to not check email or resist the urge to go for a coffee or start other tasks. But I maintain my focus by telling myself that the “reward” of checking email is not that far away so just hold on for a while longer.

What do you think about the two-hour workday? Are there approaches that you take to drive productivity?

More: Noah Charney offers up four tips to set the stage for a two-hour workday, while Never Ignore looks at how to spend the first 10 minutes of your day.

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