I made it through the 4-hour workday challenge – last Friday was day 30. It's been a little stressful, to be honest. My dreams of sipping margaritas from 1pm-5pm every day are officially dashed on the rocks of reality. I did learn a few things, though...
Focus matters (again).
I keep trying to ignore the fact that, every time I focus for 30 minutes a day on a project (with no interruptions), I get a lot more done. It's an inconvenient fact, because, well, it's kind of hard.
The 4-hour workday was, in essence, the most extreme version of 30GO30 I've ever tried. Instead of picking one (or maybe two) projects to devote 30 minutes/day to, I effectively picked eight. Guess what? It worked. I got a lot done in 4 uninterrupted hours of work.
It's way too rigid.
Unfortunately, there's almost always a downside to taking any idea too far. Some days, especially with the unpredictable schedule of working from home with a toddler, fitting in 8 highly-structured blocks of 30 minutes was just too much. I think I managed it admirably – I had a couple of 7-block days, but offset them with 9- and 10-blockers.
It was stressful, though, and it wasn't always productive in the grand scheme. Yes, any given 30 minutes of uninterrupted work was productive, but the rigid 8-block scheme didn't leave enough breathing room for creative inspiration, scheduled events (like meetings), and just plain bad days.
The other problem I ran into were tasks that are just done when they're done. I'd put aside a 30-minute block, finish the task in 15 minutes, and then find myself making up work for that same client or filling in the block artificially. That got a bit stupid some days.
I really liked the 30-minute blocks for some tasks, like client work that needs to get done every day, but it was overly restrictive for other, less predictable tasks. The 30-minute approach does work well for some creative tasks, including writing, but in limited quantities. One 30-minute block of writing time is great – three feels a bit oppressive (especially since I'm not a full-time writer). Focus and structure are good, but there are limits.
Productivity isn't everything.
It's hard to admit on a productivity blog, but I think I've started hitting that point recently where I really am making huge strides in productivity, while at the same time I'm realizing that it's just one piece of the puzzle. Some days, it would've been better to go take a walk than power through 8 30-minute blocks of "productive" work.
Where's the balance?
It depends a lot on your situation, schedule demands, type of work, and goals, but there is a happy medium. I'm going to be moving forward with something closer to a 5-6 block/day approach, leaving some open time for work that's done when it's done. I'm also going to accept that I may have some 10-block days and some 4-block days, and that's ok.
I'm also going to take a short break from 30-day challenges. I'm actually at the tail end of giving up dairy cold-turkey for 30 days, so I'll report on that soon, and I'm already almost 3 months into my Year-42 Project (expect a progress update at the end of the week), which is going well. I need to regroup a bit and figure out what's next.