The 45 Hour Work Week

work-life-fusionThere was a time when I would assume anyone who worked a 45 hour work week was lazy. Really lazy.

No longer. Now, a 45 work week is a goal, a goal I sometimes achieve and sometimes do not. But it is a goal.

I am aware this post may out me as less than diligent at work. This is certainly an American ideal, to work one’s fingers to the bone. I disagree that this is a good ideal.

I find that working 60, 70, 80 hour weeks (yes, I’ve done them all) result in poor work product, poor attitude and poor family relations. And I find that the 45 hour work week means I am very, very productive. I no longer value volume of hours, the great currency of the private law practice. I saw how often that resulted in wasted time and money.

Everyone must find their own sweet spot with this. Here is mine; it might not be yours:

  1. I take few breaks during the work day. This is counter-intuitive, and not likely to be the answer for everyone. But I like being in the zone and I like being engaged. That means my work day starts at 8 am and ends at 5 or 6 pm. I sometimes take a 15 minute break to eat and surf the net, but sometimes I eat through work. That is usually the only break I take. Is this good? Maybe not for all, but it works for me.
  2. I stand at my desk 50-75% of the day. This keeps my back feeling good and my legs engaged. I also thinks it gives me a more active brain, and makes me want to multi-task when it is a good idea to do so.
  3. I use my commute, which is not a part of my 45 hour work week, to listen to podcasts and other leadership or spiritual development material. This helps me get in the zone for work and start to think about the day ahead of me.
  4. I have a “KDL To Do List” that gets edited at the end of each day. This way I am ready to go the next morning as soon as I hit the “on” button on my computer.
  5. My department has a “stand up” meeting each day, a tool of the trade suggested by Patrick Lencioni, which sets the tone for what everyone is doing that day and provides for accountability in achieving small goals each day.
  6. I rarely work in the evenings. My goal is to turn it off when I leave, and my commute home is my transition time. It means I am more focused on my family, my main responsibility, and mirror hard work but also the value of the family to my children.
  7. I rarely work weekends, and when I do, it’s email-related, unless I must travel on Sundays. Sometimes if things are very busy, I will handle email on the weekend, but this is not desirable to me. My email is my ongoing “to do” list, so I like to have it under control at the end of each day. Having said that, sometimes it just isn’t possible, so an hour on Saturday, or better yet, an hour on Sunday night, makes for more quality down time on the weekend for me. I can relax and not worry about email surprises on Monday.
  8. I sometimes work at home, but when I do, I have strict (ahem…that’s the goal) time brackets around work. I’ve gotten better, but sometimes I unconsciously hit the Office 365 icon on my computer after hours, and poof, there’s my calendar, projects, email, staring at me. I’m working on this.

Challenges of this System:

  1. It doesn’t always work. Surprise, I fail. Sometimes I bring work home. Sometimes when I work at home it drags on into the later evening. But I’m getting better.
  2. The no-break practice at work means I don’t socialize much. I am fortunate to work at a place that has a few built-in meetings that are for prayer and socializing, so that helps a great deal in keeping up with people at work.
  3. I have an email addiction. It’s also getting better, but I hit my email, on my computer or my mobile device, way too often on weekday nights and weekend days.

What do you think? Is this doable for you?

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