The 4.5 hour workday

18 Mar

Does it ever happen to you that on Thursday afternoon you are so tired that you don’t get any work done? And you’re also too tired to realize that you are not getting any work done and it would be better to get up from your desk and go home, or to the gym or somewhere else? Instead, you sit at your desk and you stare at the screen and you open Facebook.

It happens to me. Not every day, but more often than I like. I have nothing against Facebook, but don’t like the state of being so tired that I can’t do anything but scroll through Facebook.

Last week I read an article in the New York Times about working much less than we usually do and getting just as much done. I decided to try it out. So this week I am going to try to work only 4.5 hours per day and the goal is to see whether that works for me. “Works” would be defined as

1. I get a substantial amount of work done.

2. I will be fit and concentrated during all my working hours.

Different schedules

The article suggests to work 3 x 1.5 hours per day. I am going to try a few different schedules. Today, for example, I will work 3 x 1 hour (1 hour on a paper I promised to review, 1 hour on submitting a manuscript, 1 hour on some important e-mails to collaborators), plus two meetings of 45 minutes each to work with others.

I’ll update this post later this week to let you know how it is going!

6 Responses to “The 4.5 hour workday”

  1. julian1973 March 21, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Great plan! I have to check that article (in my next break…or actually after I get my first thing done for the day). Have you ever tried the pomodoro technique?
    Its a little more than 4.5 h/day, I think you are actively working 6h a day, sounds worse than your schedule, but still.

    • pleunipennings March 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Julian, thanks for your comment. I have never tried the pomodoro technique, but I might! Have you tried it?

      • julian1973 March 22, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

        I use it mainly when I am writing, it works great, cant believe how much you can get done in 25 min. Time goes fast though, but 1.5h sections are workable. It is much harder to use it when doing labwork, experiments are hard to break up in 1.5h sessions, but it is good to try to plan your day that way anyway. First 1.5 block, treat, harvest and grind, then a second block of dna/ rna/ protein/ metabolite isolation or something like that, and so on and so forth… even if you dont follow it, it makes your day much more stuctured…
        Good luck with the 4.5h and I would like to read more about it, also if you will try the pomodoro next 🙂

  2. Bregje March 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Hi Pleuni, I really like this idea and I am curious to hear the first results. I might try as well, as I think currently too much time is consumed by responding to email and this might help to keep that time under control. Have fun! Bregje

    • pleunipennings March 24, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      Hi Bregje, thanks for your comment! I do think the 4.5 hour schedule helped me to spend less time on facebook and with e-mail. So maybe it is worth a try for you. I’ll write another update tomorrow.


  1. Friday links: profs don’t retire, republishing open-access articles, and more | Dynamic Ecology - August 16, 2013

    […] her own efforts to be the best scientist she can be. For instance, here’s the first in a series of posts about trying to become more efficient by only working 4.5 hours/day. She doesn’t post […]

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