Working 60 hours a week? May be 80? Want to scale back to 40 hour workweek? It’s easily doable and proven to be sustainable over a long period of time. Here is the secret: plan ahead for 40 hour workweek and keep it a goal throughout the week. It also includes brutal prioritizing and disciplined execution according to the plan.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Set Weekly Objectives
Obviously first and foremost objective is staying within 40 hours during the week. Or 8 hours per day.
Next identify what’s needed to be delivered by the end of the week. Think of 3 big things. Not 20, not 10, not even 5 things. Think about 3 big rocks. Imagine Friday night, you lock your computer… what is it that would be really great to have under your belt? This is what I have right now on my plate:
- All threat models completed.
- Security scanning scripts automated.
- Security engineering document v1 ready and sent for review.
I derive my weekly deliverables from my Monthly planning exercise to make sure it adds up by the end of the month, and that in turn adds up by the end of the year as planned.
Break It Down To Daily Tasks
What does it take to achieve each and every one of the three objectives? Can you imagine the series of tasks that would lead to the outcome? List it and roughly put a “price” tag in terms of how long would it take accomplish each task. Chances that the list of such tasks already nicely organized and categorized if you follow task management practice outlined in Task Management Using Microsoft Outlook. Look in the list of tasks for each category (objective), bubble up those that directly contribute to the objective and block time as outlined in Defend Your Time Using Outlook Calendar. Review the weekly calendar, are you still within 40 hours? If not, adjust to make it so. Review again – does it look realistic? No? then you are trying to bite more than you could chew, and that’s not sustainable. Reduce scope of your work or push out your deadlines.
Use this checklist before you start your workweek:
- 3 weekly deliverables identified and and written down.
- List of tasks directly contributing to the deliverables identified and prioritized.
- Time blocked week ahead for each task in the list.
- Weekly schedule validated for sanity and adds up to 40 hours.
- If the schedule is insane, scope reduced or deadlines pushed out.
What’s left is stick to the weekly plan in disciplined manner throughout the week and make sure you stay on course. As you keep practicing this approach you will first realize it’s hard to stick to the plan due to distractions or due to unrealistic planning. Keep practicing. After few weeks you will have sense what sane weekly schedule should look like and what does it take to accomplish it. A good indicator for successful schedule is accomplishing and delivering at least 80% what was originally planned. By that time you will be amazed how much impact could be achieved by “only” 40 hours work week – and that’s not by doing more rather by delivering what brings value. It’s healthy for you, it’s healthy for your manager, it’s healthy for your company. And it’s sustainable over long period of time.