Rules of effectiveness: how to work less and better

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Rules of effectiveness: how to work less and better

We’ve been always presented with a 5-days working week as with an inviolable rule, but is it really so? The times are changing, and so are the standard working hours — many companies around the world have run experiments on reducing work time. Let’s look at what we know so far about how effective the four-day workweek really is and how to work less earning the same income even if your boss isn’t going to introduce a four-day working week in your company.

Company experience: is reducing working time effective?

Let’s imagine that the organization you work at switched to a six-hour working day or a four-day working week. Seems unrealistic?

The experience of the New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian proves the opposite. The experiment with working a four-day week while being paid for five was successful. After the weekend the employees were less stressful and more energized, since they could devote more time to their families and hobbies.

Experiments in reducing working hours at a number of Swedish organizations have also yielded positive results. The Brath marketing agency in Stockholm reduced the workday to 6 hours by optimizing its working processes: employees don’t write unnecessary emails and don’t sit at pointless meetings for hours.

Working hours were also reduced at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg: this resulted in the medical staff taking fewer medical leaves and performing up to 20% more surgeries, which reduced patients’ waiting time for surgery from a few months to a few weeks.

The hospital adopted the experience of Toyota, where employees have had a six-hour working day for more than 10 years. This measure has reduced the stress level of employees and increased the speed of customer service.

To sum up: reducing working hours at the company level is only effective if employees don’t lose part of their income, and managers can release them from meetings, unnecessary discussions, and unimportant tasks.

If you are an employee, it’s not up to you to decide on a shorter working week. Therefore, let’s talk about how an ordinary employee can perform their tasks faster and more efficiently for the same money.

Two approaches to efficiency: Elon Musk vs Timothy Ferris

There are two approaches to effective work. Let’s call the first one the Elon Musk’s approach — working till you drop 80 hours a week. The second — the Timothy Ferris’s approach — working at the peak of efficiency for 4 hours a day.

Both approaches, at first glance, represent extremes, and the truth, as we all know, is somewhere in between. Not every person owns several high-tech companies like Elon Musk and not everyone can perform their tasks working at peak efficiency for all 4 hours.

We turn to the experience of Timothy Ferris, as his approach is more suitable for an ordinary office worker.

Two rules that allow the employee to save time and income

To rationally approach work, use two simple rules that Timothy Ferris constantly mentions in his book “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” — Pareto Principle and Parkinson’s Law.

Pareto Principle

20% of effort give 80% of the result, and the remaining 80% of effort — only 20% of the result

Ferris proposes to use the Pareto Principle to study professional and working life. To do this, answer these questions:

What 20% of resources create 80% of my problems and failures?

What 20% of resources bring 80% of the desired results and joys?

Parkinson’s Law

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

In other words, the more time you have for a particular task, the more serious the work seems, and the harder you will work on it. The only solution is the deadline.

If you are given 24 hours for one task, then you will work on it with maximum concentration to accomplish it.

You simply won’t have time to exaggerate the task, so you will have to find the easiest and fastest way to complete it.

To sum up: rules for performance

1) Get rid of unimportant tasks (80/20 principle), which will reduce the time spent on work.

2) Set deadlines (Parkinson’s law). Restricting working time will simply make you get rid of unimportant tasks.

Make two shortlists with answers to the questions: 1) what to do; 2) what not to do. Set the deadlines for the tasks from the first list — this will allow you to complete them in the shortest possible time.

Don’t be afraid to experiment when it comes to your efficiency or the efficiency of the company you work at — use the recommendations we provided in this article and discover how productive you and your colleagues can be!

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