I’ve been trying something new this year.

I’ve jumped on the 4-day workweek bandwagon! 

(But I haven’t decided I’m going to do it forever.)

I’m experimenting in 2024 to see if I can make this work for my company long-term.

And this is how I approach most things, actually. 

Through experimentation and iteration.

(If it doesn’t work, that’s OK.  I happen to like my life right now, anyway 🙂 )

But I suspect that a 4-day workweek might improve my life, without affecting my livelihood.

And that’s what I’m testing.

Studies show that productivity does NOT drop when switching to a 4-day workweek, even if you’re working fewer hours overall. (In fact, studies show that productivity generally increases!)

I suspect this is due, in part, to Parkinson’s law: that work expands to fill the time allotted. So, if you have less time to allot, you’ll get the work done more efficiently.

This finding also could be related to the study that showed us that working more than 50 hours a week leads to diminishing returns on productivity.

And I also have some personal experience that leads me to believe this could work for me:

When I returned to work after my first maternity leave, I could no longer simply work later if I had more work to do (because I had to pick up my kid at daycare!), and I remember immediately becoming more efficient, getting everything done that I needed to get done before 5 pm, every day, because there was no other option. (And working in the evenings or weekends has never been an option I’m willing to consider!)

And this 4-day workweek experiment? it’s not a far cry from my other experiments with my schedule. 

In fact, each quarter, I look back at my schedule and I ask myself what worked (that I want to double down on) and what didn’t (that I want to experiment with).

It’s just that this might be the biggest experiment I’ve done with my schedule to date.

But here’s the thing:  I’m not just, willy-nilly, picking a day to not work and hoping for the best.

I’m putting thought and preparation into the experiment.

What does that look like?

Well, first, let’s start with my pre-2024 schedule (or rather, its last iteration).

In 2023:

  • I was generally working Monday – Friday, starting at 9am and ending sometime between 3pm and 5pm, but trying to end on the earlier side.
  • Mondays were my “no-meeting day” and have been for years.  It’s when I get almost all my creative work done, with no interruption.
  • Tuesdays through Thursdays were devoted to clients and admin.
  • Fridays were for connecting with colleagues, and learning, but if I’m being honest, they also contained quite a bit of admin.

If I look at that schedule above, I can’t figure out how to remove a day and fit everything else into the remaining 4 days.

So, here’s what I’m trying in this iteration:

  • I’m not messing with Mondays.  Those are sacred and I need that time for creative work.  And I’m also going to try to push learning/personal development efforts into Mondays.  How will I do this?  Well, I’ve been finding that lately, I write the first drafts of my blog posts on airplanes.  (In fact, I’m on an airplane right now, and I’ve drafted 8 posts already.)  This cuts down on the time I need on Mondays to edit and publish my articles.
  • Tuesdays through Thursdays will remain devoted to clients and admin, but I’m expecting to work a couple more hours on each of these days.  I’ll aim to finish at 5pm.
  • I’m blocking off a whole day every other week that I intend to use to get focused project work day (like, an extra “Monday” twice a month).
  • I’ll take Fridays off.
    • However, I do have a few regularly scheduled connection-related meetings on Friday with colleagues.  But because I don’t think of these as “work”, I’m fine with leaving them on Friday. (Or rather, I think I’m fine with that.  Time will tell as the experiment continues to progress.)
    • I’m also trying to schedule any personal appointments (dr. or otherwise) on Fridays, as in the past, I’ve just scheduled these on whatever days I could fit them in between client sessions.

How’s it going so far?

Well, I’m about 2 months into this experiment, and while it’s going pretty well, it hasn’t been without incident.

I’m still calibrating my workload to my new workweek.

Some weeks, I’ve put a little more on my plate than I can handle, overestimating what I can do. It’s been humbling.

But week by week, as I learn to recalibrate, I’m getting back to a steady-state of “Task Realism”.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve made 2 exceptions already, booking a couple of client meetings on a Friday when that was the only day they could do it.

(Sticking to your boundaries is hard, even when they are clearly defined and backed up with science!)

Here’s what I promise:

Near the end of the year, I’ll let you know how the experiment worked out, whether I’m going to continue it in 2025, and what I’ve learned so that you might be able to apply it if you work for yourself, or be better prepared to suggest it, at your workplace.

Do you work a 4 day work week?

How long have you been doing it?

What have you learned along the way?