Trimming the Fat Off of the Day: The 5-Hour Workday

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Have you ever worked a job where your boss kept you chained to your desk ‘til the clock reached 5 p.m. (or 5:30 p.m. even) on the dot? The hours dissolved especially slowly during those afternoons where you were kept like a prisoner despite having completed your day’s work way ahead of quitting time.

Luckily, many businesses are waking up the working realities of 2014—namely the fact that people should be able to work however they like, so long as they are doing their jobs well.

Thanks to the way technology’s changed over the years, for many people work is no longer a place to go to in order to do a job. Rather, the definition of “work” has evolved to include a series of tasks that can be accomplished from anywhere, so long as you have an Internet-connected device at your disposal.

Are you looking to figure out how to carve more time out of your workday so you can tackle freelance projects? Maybe you want more time to exercise, watch movies or just be completely lazy.

Whatever your reasoning, if you’re looking to increase your productivity at work, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at four tricks you should consider if you’re trying to shorten your workday:

Stop thinking about work as an eight-hour block of time. There are still some businesses that refuse to admit that the concept of a 9 to 5 workday is outdated. But as time goes on, these old-fashioned institutions will be forced to change how they operate because they won’t be able to find employees to fill their cubicles otherwise.

The good news is that, as the controller of your own destiny, you set your own fate. And as such, you can be ahead of the curve. To do this, you need to start believing that work is not a block of time, but rather a bunch of obligations you must take care of each week.

This paradigm shift will allow you to work more quickly and more effectively. After all, let’s not forget Parkinson’s law, the old adage that says that work expands or contracts in order to fill up however much time is allotted for it.

So it’s simple: Allot less time.

deskSplit up your work responsibilities into daily and weekly goals. The trick of keeping a manageable workload is to not keep piling more and more tasks on your plate. Sure, your boss or your clients might appreciate you working longer days. But as long as you complete the tasks you need to complete in order to meet your business goals, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend on them.

So as work begins each week, write a list of all the tasks you have to accomplish in order to be successful. Then break down those lists into daily lists.

While you might finish super early one day and want to add more tasks on your plate, you’re bound to run over on other days.

The trick to the shortened workday is remaining consistent to your approach, so it’s imperative that you don’t keep adding to your to-do list. Otherwise, it’ll be impossible to avoid working long days constantly.

Tackle your busywork first. While answering emails and updating spreadsheets might not be the most challenging things on your docket, they’re relatively easy to tackle. So if you start your day by checking off a bunch of tasks from your to-do list, you’re able to feel a nice sense of accomplishment that you can ride while taking on the more challenging assignments.

Believe it or not, a study commissioned by the University of California-Irvine actually found out that we’re happiest when we’re doing these kinds of tasks.

“With rote work, you get a feeling of accomplishment,” explains Dr. Gloria Mark, who led the study. “It gives you a feeling of fulfillment, but there’s not frustration or stress.”

So in addition to the pride that comes with knocking tasks off your plate, you’ll also be in a good mood.

3631119830_7be2edf6aa_zBuild a successful environment. Precisely how your working environment is configured might very well have an impact on how productive you are, too.

Studies have shown that being cold can make workers feel depressed and isolated. What’s more, workplaces that are loud can cause employees to release more adrenaline than they normally would, which can reduce motivation or make it that much harder to get a good night’s sleep.

So in order to be as productive as possible, you should really construct your workplace exactly to your preferences. This includes making sure your office is the right temperature and has the right noise level.

If you’re a coffee drinker and you work at home, for example, you might want to also consider moving your coffeemaker from your kitchen to your office. In doing so, you’re able to refuel without leaving the room, a simple hack which will undoubtedly enhance your productivity.

Of course, these four tips are just a handful of many that you should consider if you’re trying to shorten your workday. Every employee works differently and has different talents, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach you can take to guarantee a faster workday.

So find a routine that works best for you. Continue working hard to refine it and improve it. And don’t give up: The path to a more productive workday is at your fingertips. You just need to persevere.

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