How to Shave Ten Hours Off Your Work Week

Almost everyone I know is working more time than they would like. That’s why a book like The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss has been such a big bestseller. This is a great book, but the promise is a little over the top. I don’t know of anyone, including Tim Ferriss, who really only works four hours.

Photo courtesy of ©, Image #2579442

Photo courtesy of ©

But what if you could shave ten hours off your work week? In my opinion, that is much more do-able. Virtually anyone, with a little thought and effort can do it. Here’s how:

  1. Limit the time you spend online. In my experience, the Web is most people’s #1 time suck. Yes, I know it is a wonderful tool for research, blah, blah, blah. But I often catch myself and my family members mindlessly surfing from one page to another with no clear objective in mind. Before you know it, you can eat up several hours a day. The key is to put a fence around this activity and limit your time online. Set a timer for yourself if you have to.This is true for Web surfing and it is also true for email. Unless you are in a customer service position where you have to be “always-on,” you should check email no more than two or three times a day.
  2. Touch email messages once and only once. Okay, let’s be honest. How many times do you read the same email message over and over again? Guess what? The information hasn’t changed. That’s right. You are procrastinating.I have a personal rule: I will only read each message once then take the appropriate action: do, delegate, defer, file or delete it. I describe these in more detail in a post I made last week.
  3. Follow the two-minute rule. My to-do list is very short. It never gets longer than about thirty items. This is because I do everything I can immediately. If I need to make a phone call, rather than entering it on my to-do list, I just make the call.If I can complete the action in less than two minutes, I just go ahead and do it. Why wait? You will be amazed at how much this “bias toward action” will reduce your workload.

    Conversely, when you don’t do it promptly, you end up generating even more work for yourself and others. The longer a project sits, the longer it takes to overcome inertia and get it moving again. The key is to define the very next action and do it. You don’t have to complete the whole project, just the next action.

  4. Stop attending low-impact meetings. If there’s one thing we can probably all agree on, it’s that we go to too many meetings. Either the meeting organizer isn’t prepared, the meeting objective isn’t defined, or you can’t really affect the outcome one way or the other.Every meeting should have a written objective and a written agenda. If you don’t have these two minimal items, how do you know when the meeting is over? Could this also explain why meetings seem to drag on and on until everyone is worn out?

    If the content of the meeting is irrelevant to you and your job or if you don’t feel that you really add that much to the discussion, ask to be excused.

  5. Schedule time to get your work done. This is crucial. As the saying goes, “nature abhors a vacuum.” If you don’t take control of your calendar, someone else will. You can’t spend all your time in meetings and still get your work done.Instead, you need to make appointments with yourself. Yes, go ahead and actually put them on your calendar. Then, when someone asks for a meeting, you can legitimately say, “No, I’m sorry, that won’t work. I already have a commitment.” And you do—to yourself!
  6. Cultivate the habit of non-finishing. Not every project you start is worth finishing. Sometimes we get into it and realize, “This is a waste of time.” Fine, then give yourself permission to quit.I do this all the time with reading. It’s why I am able to read so many articles and books. Here’s publishing’s dirty little secret: most books are not worth finishing. Most books could be cut in half and you wouldn’t miss a thing. The key is to read as long as you are interested and then stop. There are too many great books to read without getting bogged down in the merely good ones.
  7. Engage in a weekly review and preview. Part of the reason our lives get out of control is because we don’t plan. Once a week, you have to come up for air. Or—to change the metaphor—you have to take the plane up to 30,000 feet, so you can see the big picture.I generally do this on Sunday evening. I review my notes from the previous week and look ahead to my calendar. I have written elsewhere on this topic, so I won’t repeat myself here.

You may not be able to reduce your workweek to four hours—and honestly, who would want to?—but you can certainly scale it down to a manageable level by cutting out the wasted motion and developing a few good habits.

What other tips have you discovered for trimming your work week?
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  • Rob Sorbo

    Good list. Unfortunately, I am an hourly worker, so if I shave 10 hours off of my week I will have to start skipping meals (though that probably couldn’t hurt me!)

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  • Lee

    Great post Michaell, thanks also for sharing some of your tips. This is how I manage working hours. I personally use this tool which I list my entire task for the day. Organize it form with the highest priority level down to less priority. Set an amount of time to do each task and eagerly follow. Discipline helps a lot in order to keep me on track and finish the work on time. Self discipline determination and with the help of some tools this way I would say that I’m more productive.

  • Jodybooks

    This is wonderful advice as I write/revise/plan my goals for 2012. Thank you!

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  • Rob Sorbo

    Unfortunately, most weeks I could do my job in under 10 hours a week, but I still have to be here 40.

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  • Olga

    Thank you so much for sharing those great tips. This  greatly applies to me as my goal has been to find better ways to better manage my time.
    I have learned to set invisible timers in most of what I do. This has helped to make me aware how much time I was wasting in the day. It has greatly helped in the way that I complete my daily tasks.
    Low impact meetings or “leeches”as I refer to them does steals a great chunk of our day. I will ask to be excused as most times my input was not needed.
    Thanks for the tips. I will add it to those that I have learned and I know this will shave off even more hours off my work week.

  • David

    The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss is a must read book for those who want to manage their working time.Some means of managing or shave ten hours off your work week is shared here and it is definitely worthy.

  • Sujan Ghosh

     This is a very helpful post, I was
    looking for this information. Just so you know I located your site when I was
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    leave me a comment to let me know what you think.To give  a shave of your working day you have to be very much concern about your work load.

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  • Sujan

     To shave your time or days of your work time you need to concentrate hard and make  a priority list.You have to do your work according to priority list.

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  • Mister Charlie

    For those of us that travel, 36,000 feet is a great time to do your 30,000 foot work. I shun in flight wifi, discharge the laptop, then put on some light music and:

    Dream about the year ahead

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  • Jody

    Every one of your posts is so helpful! Thank you for giving of yourself so consistently. You are making a positive impact in many lives .

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jody.

  • Luther Cale

    I start every day by writing the 3 most important things (MITs) on an index cards. I make sure I do those 3 things come hell or high water. Anything else is gravy. That’s more than 1,000 very important things in any given year to push my life where I want it go. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great way to look at it—1,000 things. I like it!

  • Hilary Martin, CFP®

    My best practice to add hours to the week is to have a list of 5 top priorities for each week, and to focus relentlessly on those. In this way, my attention is on what’s most important for my business, and not the agenda created for me by other people which shows up reliably in my email inbox.

  • Bobbi Linkemer

    Very sensible stuff, even for a one-man (woman) band. Not a lot of meetings, but much of the other advice is applicable. Thanks to Bob Baker for leading me to this blog.

  • Brian B Baker

    This is a wonderful post. Number 7 is the one I’m going to try in the next few weeks. I already do some of the others, but number 7 is a great one.

  • Kirsten

    I made the rule to only answer emails once a day (usually in the morning) and return calls once a day (usually in the afternoon). If I don’t set specific times I could literally spend pockets of time throughout the day responding and that really adds up. :)

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  • Dr. Brian J. Dixon

    One more tip is to “Carpe Di Commute.” Most people zone out to and from work instead of using this time to plan and reflect. I talk about this in my video here:

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love you naming this, “Carpe Di Commute”!