What would you do with 52 extra days off this year? Or an entire year off in the next seven? We live in a stressful culture of performance that enshrines overwork as a noble pursuit. Jam packed days punctuated with too little sleep. Work at the expense of family, health and play. Work at the expense of real wealth. What is the optimal work week? Shorter than you might think.
I first met Jay Conrad Levinson during the recession of 1991. I was alone in my home office anxious about the number of design clients I had who were slow to pay for my work. I looked up at my book shelf at the series Guerrilla marketing books Jay had published and decided there needed to be a prequel called "Guerrilla Start-up". I got his home number from directory assistance, dialed the number and he answered. Five minutes later he had agreed to co-author the book with me.
Jay died a few years ago. He had the distinction of being the best selling marketing author of all time prior to that. When he retired from his advertising job prior to that gig he vowed never to return to soul-crushing eighty hour weeks. From the start, Jay trained me and everyone else in his life to call on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, as he has retired from the rest of the week.
Mindfulness often creates better results than sheer effort.
As I worked on the book with Jay, my business morphed from design consulting to executive coaching, which was way harder. In the first year of my coaching practice I was bagged by the time I hit Thursday and the clients at the back of the week got the tired and spent version of me. So with Jay's example in mind I decided to retire from Wednesdays.
The first two months were brutal as I mindlessly redistributed the work to the other four days. I was about to crack from the strain of that schedule, when I had the break through: a big chunk of what I spent my work week on added no value: chasing clients who would never say yes, coaching clients that would never do the work and writing programs no one would ever want. I deleted all that low leverage low margin crap and then was more present for my clients than I'd ever been. They had better experiences with me and got better results. I more than made up for the revenue shortfall from a short week with higher fees my clients were happy to pay. Who knew?
The most valuable part of any service is emotional presence.
In the past twenty years I have taken over 1000 Wednesdays off. That's almost 3 extra man years of my life I got back from not doing things that added no real value. I wrote this article on a Wednesday. I've written 8 books and hundreds of articles and done hundreds of days of ice climbing, dog sledding, backcountry skiing and golfing. I've caught up on my sleep and caught up with my friends. The quality of my service and my revenue have gone up as a result of being a less stressed and more whole person with much more to offer my entrepreneurs.
There is no special talent or skill required to change the time density of your week: just the willingness to change your schedule, muscle through the transition and have faith in your ability to rise to a higher level of self-awareness and service skill. I retired from Wednesday in one shuddering moment twenty years ago. That's one way to do it, but you can start with an extra day off every month and build gradually from there.
Taking a strategic day off creates more benefit in the long run than it costs.