(Where did the 40-hour work week come from? See below.)
I once tried to deliberately work two 60-hour work weeks back-to-back – a kind of Thoreau "went to the woods … to live deliberately” thing. That, and I figured I easily owed it to those who got us through tough times before.
Fortunately, I love my work.
I’m pretty sure I’d done it before (especially in the early days of Give More back in 1998 – 2000). But here’s the twist … I did it with a clock – a sort of speed chess clock where I started it only when I did activities that contributed directly to my job (and stopped it for those “How was your weekend?” moments, bathroom visits, calls from The Spaniard (my wife), and personal web time.
60 hours of work. Two weeks straight.
Five things happened right out of the gate on Day 1…
- One colleague excitedly asked me what they could expect from me with the additional man week of time added to the two (20 hours x 2 weeks = 40).
- It took me about 10 hours at the office to get the first 8 hours of real work (remember … no personal, web, bathroom, lunch, commuting time included).
- I quickly realized I’d need 6 days out of the week to hit 60 hours (it couldn’t be seven – even as a 212er, I get the “all work and no play” thing – that link: daytime only – much too scary without the sun – squeamish stay clear).
- I gave much more deliberate attention to my time (small talk was out).
- I realized how lucky I was to have it be a choiceto do it.
So here’s what happened after two weeks …I failed.
- Worked 106.6 hours (6400 minutes), 13.4 hours short of the target.
- 53.8 hours worked in the first week, 52.8 in the second week.
- Worked every day to hit the 106 total hours but Saturdays and Sundays were roughly half days (against my original rule of not working at least one day each week).
- Got more done but would have a difficult time proving it given the nature of my work.
- I love my work and as a result tend to be addicted to it. Even so, after about 8.5 real hours of work (using the speed chess clock method), I found I was ready to break for the day.
- I’m not sure if I experienced diminishing returns or not. I don’t feel like I did but on the days when I went over 9 (nine real hours), I’m guessing there was some of that.
- I don’t think my family or marriage suffered but that might be one of those things you only learn about a several years later (“And that work experiment? What the hell was that? I’m out of here." Not likely from The Spaniard. "And during that wicked recession my dad would work more, trying "to create value in the world" he would say (roll eyes) … to keep things moving. Freakin’ Cat’s in the Cradle, man. That’s how I ended up like this, you know.")
- I’m guessing to be effective, the ideal real working hours number is going to be different for everyone. I’m confident it’s over 40 if we really want to do something wonderful but I imagine if you don’t like your work, that’s probably too much (but so is 20 probably).
- I think we need to make sure we understand we have an obligation to each other. The goal isn’t to work less. It’s to contribute to the world and bring our particular value to the table. If we focus on that, my guess is we’ll find ourselves in a much better place. Think about it … How can we show care without work?
(work (‘weurk): noun: an activity in which one exerts strengths or faculties to do or perform something)
(Did you hear about Joe?)
The 40-hour work week was established in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (starting as a cap of 44 hours until it locked in at 40 hours in what appears to be 2 years later). It was a factory worker and child labor protection issue rather than a scientific-study-end-all-be-all marker for optimal productivity.
Be sure you’re focusing on how much you can give with your time rather than how little of your time you can give. It’s a better bet for creating value (helping others), success, and ultimately, more fun.