“Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living.
Barely getting by, it’s all taking and no giving.”
Ah, Dolly Parton! She hit the nail on the head with this classic hit. The traditional work schedule of going to an office Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm has been plaguing the workforce since the early part of the 19th century. Originating from an agreement between factory owners and workers in northern Britain, the weekend was set aside as a time of leisure and it was mutually agreed that workers would return on Monday rested and sober, ready to work.
In most parts of the developed world, Saturday and Sunday have been designated as days off. This is because historically the prevailing religions, Judaism and Christianity, honor religious traditions on those days. Some countries where the religious majority is something else will take Thursday and Friday as their days off, however globalization has encouraged most nations and corporations to work the western standard week, Monday-Friday.
Regardless of which days you enjoy as your “weekend”, the pattern of 5 days on and 2 days off is pretty typical worldwide, as is the standard 8 hour day. Of course, this number was not arrived upon scientifically but rather came about as a result of the industrial revolution. Factory owners were looking for ways to maximize their output and workers were fighting for a sustainable schedule. Thus, the 8-hour work day was born! But why does it persist? Basically, out of habit.
Here is the thing, humans work best in short chunks of about 90-120 minutes, followed by time to relax and regroup. You can read more about the research here, but it is enough to know that if you are trying to focus on work for longer than that at one time- you are probably not performing optimally.
I encourage you to throw the old schedule out the window (at least figuratively) and imagine a world where you can work at the times that are optimal for you.
- Are you a night owl, or an early bird?
- Do you prefer to take a long lunch and include a workout in the middle of the day?
- Do you focus best after your children go to bed?
- How would you feel if you didn’t need to set an alarm clock every night?
Earlier this year, in my blog post entitled Life by Design, I asked you to consider three questions.
- If you could do anything for work, without worrying about how much money you make, what would you spend your time doing?
- If you could design the time you spend working, forgetting about the standard 9-5 or 8-hour work day, when would you work?
- If you could design the space you work in, remembering their are no rules regarding location, where would it be and what would it look like?
Take a moment now to focus on question #2. If you worked in smaller chunks at the times you are most productive, would you still need to maintain a 40-hour work week? Could you accomplish the same amount of work (or more!) in less time? Would you enjoy your time off on Saturday and Sunday, or would a weekday be better for you?
Comment below with your thoughts!