Indeed, the most productive employees don’t necessarily work the longest hours. Instead, they take the smartest approach to managing their energy to solve tasks in efficient and creative ways. — Derek Thompson, A Formula for Perfect Productivity: Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17, The Atlantic
At Treehouse, we’ve got this weird thing called the 4-day work week. It’s not a gimmick, it’s not the 4-hour work week, and there’s not some 4 days of working 10 hours scheme going on. We really work 4 8-hour days each week.
The 4-day work week ultimately boils down to the beauty of constraints. Ryan, our founder, and his wife, Gill, had the hypothesis that smart, motivated people given only 4 days per week would recognize how precious those 4 days are and take full advantage of them. Work smarter, rather than harder. You know the drill.
Overall, I’d say their hypothesis has been proven in resounding fashion. Treehouse has grown very quickly. We’ve built a product, team, and company that we’re all proud of. We’ve had so much fun doing it. Also, we’ve had an extra day with our families and friends while we’ve accomplished all this.
I haven’t been very good at working 4 days per week, though. Especially not when it comes to mental work, but I’ve also worked most Fridays in the almost 4 years that I’ve worked on Treehouse now. That’s probably not a good thing.
All those days, and honestly I can’t tell a single story about the great work I did on a Friday that really made a difference. That’s probably not a good thing.
I have a really hard time turning things off and spending time on my family and myself. That’s probably not a good thing.
There’s an insidious phrase rattling around in my head that drives me to work on Fridays, and it may well drive you to work harder, rather than smarter, too:
If I don’t do this, no one will.
This phrase can drive you insane. It can cause you to question everything. This phrase breeds distrust in your team. “Why aren’t they doing this?” My emotional response is that I’m all alone. The real answer? There are more important things to be done than my idea from 30 seconds ago.
The phrase breeds a feeling of self-importance. “I’m the only one willing do this.”
The phrase takes away your ability to focus and prioritize. More and more work doesn’t mean better and better work. “Focusing is about saying no.”
I’m going to try and be a little better about these things. I don’t want to be the kind of person who ultimately mistrusts my team, feels self-important, and misplaces priorities. I want to build really great stuff and I want to be deliberate about how I build it. Most of all, I want to be the kind of person that people remember working with for the right reasons.
So today (a Friday, no less) I’m paying my bills, writing a silly essay, and then reading while I wait on my kids to come home from school. I’m hoping I’ll try talking things out with the team the next time my brain says “If I don’t do this, no one will.”