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Embracing a Five-Hour Workday

By 3p Contributor

By Stephan Aarstol

Are productivity and progress one and the same to you? As crucial as hustle is to any entrepreneur and his employees, it has its drawbacks — burnout, stress and depression, just to name a few.

So, how do you combat these and other drains on your productivity? For starters, try stepping away from said stressor. Look, the notion of taking time off regularly may sound crazy to people who have fallen into the trap of believing that more is more. Some of my most promising entrepreneurial ventures sprung from ideas I had when I was off the clock.

The seeds of my poker chip company weren’t sown while hunched over a desk; they were planted during a run-of-the-mill poker game with some friends. The paddle board company I successfully pitched on “Shark Tank” had unorthodox beginnings — it came to me while I was out on the water with a buddy at 5:30 a.m.

These represent two big breaks in my business career, neither of which would have happened if I hadn’t taken a break and turned my brain off.

Stop the stress

Job-induced stress, according to a study by Statista, is felt by 64 percent of North American workers. Though we lament its effects — dips in productivity, raw energy and innovation — stress has been normalized.

Some claim to thrive on it, though I encourage those who subscribe to that thinking to take a step back and reflect. Consider whether you’re just following the crowd instead of doing what’s ideal for you and your business.

To do my part in changing that culture in my own company, I decided to flip the normal eight-hour workday on its head. I drilled our schedule down to five hours — we work 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. without a lunch break, and then we’re out of there.

It’s worked better than we could have imagined, allowing me and other employees ample time to recharge our mental batteries. People actually like coming to work in the morning because they don’t feel tethered to their desks. And productivity? It’s soared.

Dial down to amp up

You don’t have to be a workaholic to achieve. If you’re ready to open the door to a new philosophy, try the following steps:

1. Just try it out. Explain to your team that you want to launch a productivity experiment. Tell them you want everyone to produce the same amount of output in five hours instead of eight. Add that this is a trial run so your employees feel less pressured — and you can return to your normal protocol if the experiment doesn’t work.

What can you expect? In most cases, your team will work miracles, implementing creative solutions to work fewer hours. After a lifetime of logging long shifts, they finally have incentive to be more productive because they can go home without a loss of job or dollars.

2. Clock yourself. The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that 80 percent of your productive output comes from 20 percent of your efforts. Conversely, 80 percent of your efforts are generating about 20 percent of your productive output.

Use that very principle to mentally or physically track everything you do all day, every day. Then, evaluate your findings. The goal of this exercise is to identify the minimal input that’s yielding maximum efficiency.

From there, it will be easier to unearth your wasted efforts and find ways to improve productivity. And you won’t have to break your back or overdo it mentally to get there.

3. Don’t mind machinery. Workers are fearful of technology because they worry they will be replaced by robots. In most knowledge-working industries, this won’t happen for the simple fact that those employees understand that technology’s real power comes from its ability to blend with human know-how.

Why not efficiently supplement live customer service with a website, FAQs, and YouTube clips? This saves time by harnessing technology. For instance, our online store works 24/7/365 and is the source of 98 percent of our revenue.

Consequently, we cut our retail store down to five-hour cycles, too, without a blip on the revenue radar. We had the same number of customers coming into the store, and they came at a faster clip.

We’ve all heard we must work smarter, not harder. The former, to some, may be best defined as not working at all, but when you value living, you tend to value working, too.

Time off creates a symbiotic relationship between your career and your life that can change your perspective on everything, making you and your employees better at your roles.

Image credit: Pexels

Stephan Aarstol is the author of the widely acclaimed book “The Five Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness, garnering coverage from CNN, CNBC, “Fox & Friends,” The Huffington Post, and Forbes. His unique spin on the average workday earned him “World’s Best Boss” distinctions from multiple German newspapers and the title of “America’s Best Boss” by U.K.-based newspaper The Daily Mail. Stephan Aarstol is the CEO and founder of Tower, deemed one of Mark Cuban’s best “Shark Tank” investments.

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