Haiku Productivity: Limit Your Work Week

By Leo Babauta

What if you only worked 4 days a week? Or 5 days of 3 hours a week? Or whatever hours you decided?

Last week I talked about the fine art of limiting yourself in my new Haiku Productivity system. This week, let’s see how Haiku Productivity could be used to allow you to work less, be more effective, and free up more time for yourself.

I know, it sounds nice but unrealistic. But it doesn’t have to be, if you really want to control your work life. It depends on what you’re willing to do.

What I’ve Done
This is something I’ve been doing myself for the last couple of months, so I can share my experiences with you. I decided that I wanted to limit my work to three days a week, about half a day’s work for each of those three days.

I’ve pretty much done that, despite that I have a full-time job, I blog, and I do freelance writing.

I didn’t start by limiting myself to three days a week right away. I first tried to fit all my work into four days, and that was a challenge. Then I started eliminating some of my work, slowly, and that made things much better.

Now I’ve stacked everything into three days. That includes writing posts for Zen Habits (one half day), freelancing (two half days), and my regular work (interspersed among the other two). I’ve done that by eliminating some of my work in all three areas, down to the essential.

Now, I should confess that I do work more than those three half days. I do some work in the other halves of those three days, for example, and I do a little work on the two other weekdays. But my essential work is limited to those three half days, and the work I do outside those three half days consists of personal projects I want to do that I couldn’t do before (such as writing a book).

What do I do with the rest of my time? I respond to reader emails and comments, I work on other projects that I want to (including an upcoming ebook and a longer-term book project), I spend time with my family (I get off at 3 p.m. these days). I don’t do any work on weekends.

My work week isn’t exactly where I want it yet. I am working on quitting my day job (just want to save up a bigger emergency fund first) and I am working on getting to my ideal day. It’s a longer-term process than just setting limits and making the change overnight.

How to Do It
So how do you go about limiting your work week? The key is to set a limit, but how you go about achieving the limit is the hard part. Here are some suggestions:

What if I’m an Employee?
Most people don’t exactly control their work days or weeks. I understand that. I have more flexibility than most people, but that’s been something I’ve consciously developed, by changing my expectations and the expectations of my boss and the people around me. If they expect me to work 40 hours a week, then I have to do that. But if they expect me to do the essential work, and do it well, then it shouldn’t matter if I do that in 2 hours or 40.

However, I’ll acknowledge that not everyone has the luxury of flexibility that I do. So how can you apply Haiku Productivity to your work week in that case? It’s still possible, but it’s more limited. Here are some ideas: