Like you, I work hard.  8-10 hours a day, a few hours on Saturday morning, a few more on Sunday afternoon…and I never see the bottom of my to-do list.

I recently read a challenging article, “This Morning Routine Will Save You 20+ Hours Per Week” by Benjamin P. Hardy.  He states that “many highly successful people work between 3-6 hours per day.” I was immediately entranced. He challenges that it’s a matter of priority and focus of our time and attention.

First, Mr. Hardy suggests that when we’re results-oriented, we truly focus 100% of our effort on working—hard.  However, for many of us…because we never see the end of our hopelessly ever-growing to do list…we spend our working time in a relaxed, distracted, often multi-tasking effort. Referencing a book, Deep Work (which is now on my phone), he states that the best work happens in short, intense, focused sessions…short sessions…1-3 hours.

Second, he challenges (and I strongly agree personally) that our best work happens early in the morning, when as he states “our brain is most active and readily creative….” It’s when we should be focused on our thoughtful work. No emails, no conference calls, no meetings, no distractions.

So, like a good engineer, I measured what I was working on every 15 minutes throughout the day for a week. And I must sadly admit that, as a person with a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, I was dismally inefficient! Broadly, without embarrassing myself too much, I spent only about 10% of my week (yes, about an hour a day) really focused—that is, working on and completing…the most important work efforts of my week.

Why?

Mostly, I allowed interruptions and distractions to creep into my day. You know them, I suspect: 1) not effectively blocking and managing my calendar, 2) checking emails and texts way too often, and perhaps most impactful 3) not working (that is, hiding) in a place that helped to prevent well-meaning walkup interruptions. I work hard…lots of hours, but if I got paid for accomplishing what I want to accomplish, I’d be broke.

So, what am I endeavoring to do about this?

  1. I’m re-energized to really block and manage my calendar. Four weeks out, I block 6:30am-9:30am, Monday through Thursday. During this time, I’m not taking any meetings, phone calls (unless it’s my wife), conference calls, walk-ins, etc.
  2. I’ve found a place to work, where it’s kind of hard to find me…at least for now. I personally need a more quiet environment than some of my younger friends who can work away with headphones in the middle of a chaotic coffee shop.
  3. I’ve divided my work into three buckets: Creative, Execution, and Administrative. I prioritize work that requires creative juices first and early in the day. Administrative work is scheduled for Friday mornings—bookkeeping, planning, scheduling the next 4 weeks, etc. Execution work is comprised of followups, conference calls, etc., and occurs daily between, say, 9-9:30a to Noon.

I’ll probably continue to work 50-60 hours each week, but my goal is to spend 40% (20-25 hours) of that time really focused on accomplishing my most important work.

What’s your plan?