4 o'clockI know what you're thinking — didn't Tim Ferriss already write the 4-Hour Workweek, and isn't that, by definition, 5 times better than a 4-Hour Workday? Well, yeah, sort of. I'm not here to argue with Tim's success or review his book (I think it has plenty of good advice), but here's my big question: How many people who read it are actually working 4-hour weeks?

What if we started smaller?

I'm not sure most of us can really see a path from where we are now to a 4-hour workweek, but over the past few months, I've seen a way I could do 8 hours of work in 4 hours, and it applies to most of the people I know. It's not a shortcut, and it doesn't involve outsourcing — what it does involve is a radical transformation of your day.

What do you do in 8 hours?

Let's be honest — even if you're extremely conscientious and hard-working, you don't sit at your desk for 8 straight hours with 100% focus on your work. Even if your office has strict internet usage policies, you still check email dozens of times a day, take breaks, chat with co-workers, daydream, etc. If you're in an industry like mine or work for a more flexible company, then add in Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and virtually anything you do on your phone other than call people.

The problem isn't just the time these activities take — distraction costs so much more than that. Let's say you're doing something that takes solid mental effort, like writing. If you write for 30 minutes, but then check email 5 times for 30 seconds each, did you get in 27:30 of solid writing time? No. Your brain had to regroup every time, and inevitably those emails contained something that you'd have to act on later. As soon as you saw them, they started gnawing away at your capacity to focus. What you thought was 30 minutes of "writing" may have been 15 minutes at best.

What if we defragmented time?

What happens when you defragment a hard drive? Basically, you move all the open bits (the ones with no data in them) so that they're together, creating blocks of usable space. What if you did the same thing with your day? Let's say that, after all the distractions and mental gymnastics, every 30 minutes you "work" is really only 15 minutes of productivity. If we took all of those 15 minute chunks and put them into 1 block, we'd have a 4-hour period of productivity and a 4-hour period of distraction.

Of course, most of us can't work in one big, uninterrupted, 4-hour block. So, here's where the 30GO30 philosophy comes in — what if you thought of your work day as 8 30-minute blocks. During those 30 minutes, you work — no email, no Facebook, no watercooler gossip, no distractions. Set a timer, if you have to (I do).

So, I can go home at noon?

Obviously, it's not quite that simple. I'm not even suggesting that you stop working after the 8 blocks. In my experience, those 8 blocks often take 8 hours or more. Once you start thinking in terms of a 4-hour day, though, the time you spend outside of those blocks starts to seem more like pure distraction. Checking Facebook the 487th time sounds good when you're procrastinating. Doing it when it's just cutting into your "free" time loses a lot of appeal.

I'd also argue (from experience) that, if you really did this consistently, those 4 hours of focused work would yield more results than any traditional 8-hour day, especially for people in creative roles. You'd see your quality increase, and you'd learn where your efforts really pay off.

This sounds like a challenge.

That's right — this isn't just me waxing philosophical. My next 30-day challenge is to live the 4-hour workday, to commit to 8 uninterrupted 30-minute blocks of work every workday. I'll be sticking to weekdays, so this will actually be a 6-week challenge. I realize that jumping straight to 8 blocks may be too much for some people, especially if you have a more traditional office job. So, a couple of suggestions:

  • Commit to a smaller number of blocks — 6, 4, 2, even 1
  • Don't obsess over outside interruptions. You can't control other people, but if you just focus on what you can control, you'll still see a huge difference.
  • If it's really impossible to carve out any 30-minute blocks in the office, set aside 1-2 per day at home, for your own personal/family projects.
  • Don't be too rigid. You can use the blocks for anything — it's all about focus.
If 8 blocks sounds impossible, remember this — you're already working an 8+ hour day. I'm not talking about adding 4 hours of work. I'm just suggesting you do that work a little differently. Theoretically, you're not even changing what you do at first — you're just doing it in a different order.

The challenge starts Monday, September 12, and lasts 6 weeks. I'll update my status at the 3-week mark. If you're with me, let me know in the comments.

07 Sep – Marcus

Ha, I like your style! Good luck! :)

07 Sep – Paige Worthy

I love this, Pete. Thanks for writing it — as someone who is entirely reliant on my own motivation and mental control, this is a challenge I could stand to put myself up to. Might try it with youi!

07 Sep – MySEOHeadache

this sounds awesome. My workday usually takes far too long to complete, with this strategy, I might get some more time to myself.

07 Sep –

This is great, I like this a lot. It seems even on our most productive days we'll get 6-7 hours of solid work in. I definitely believe in the concept of losing concentration and focus when switching between tasks, and we should aim to be in a flow state for those 30 minutes when we're working. The pomodoro technique is similar also, with 25 minute bursts! http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/

07 Sep – Dr. Pete

@Marcus - Thanks, I like your hat :)

@Paige - As much as I love "being my own boss" (translation: having 15 different bosses), motivation and structure is a constant struggle. We're our own worst enemies.

@MySEOHeadache - I've been testing this out the past couple of weeks, and it's amazing how often 4 hours of 30-minute blocks takes the entire day (and then some). It's scary how much random crap happens in any given day.

@Joe - I like the Pomodoro technique, and in fairness, that's been around much longer than my blog. I tend to do 30 minutes of work and then break between the blocks, only because I'm never sure how long a "break" will take. It has advantages and disadvantages, and I'd actually encourage people to try both methods.

07 Sep – Roger Dooley

This strategy is increasingly sensible as new distractions keep appearing. (Google+, anyone?)

Sounds a lot more practical than the Four Hour WorkWEEK!

07 Sep – Dr. Pete

@Roger - That's been exactly my problem. If I participate on every social network and then try to do my core work in the time that's left, I'm at the mercy of the industry. The more networks that get created, the less time I have. It's kind of like budgeting. You can't just buy all the things you want and then hope you have money left to pay the bills.

07 Sep – Dr. Pete

@Roger - Actually, I take that back. You CAN do exactly that with money, and many people apparently do. You SHOULDN'T, though.

07 Sep – Roger Dooley

The difficult part is that we can't ignore social media, even if we want to. For SEO, for content marketing, and just about every other aspect of business, you have to be there. Unfortunately, it's like wading into a whirlpool where you'll get sucked in with one misstep, and waste a lot of time crawling back out! Your strategy keeps you away from the edge while you are being productive.

07 Sep – Levi

Dear Pete the doctor,

Bring it.


Levi the non-doctor.

07 Sep – Dr. Pete

@Roger - I've gone off social media for 30 days twice now, and I've learned two things: (1) it's vital to my business, and (2) I'm incredibly productive without it. Reconciling those things may just be the challenge of the 21st-century marketer.

@Levi - I'm having cheerleader-movie flashbacks now :)

07 Sep – Levi

Sorry, I can't reply until my next block. be back in 25 minutes.

12 Sep –

i think even i should take a sabbatical from social media for a while and see the difference. twitter i think i require but will try to unfollow ppl who screw my timeline. anyways thanks i m quote convinced to act on your advice.

27 Oct –

Hi Pete I'm just starting at the beginning of your blog. I love what your doing and I must recommend (http://www.your-brain-at-work.com) - get the audio version. Not like all the get it done etc stuff its more like a step by step of how your brain works in certain situations. Then it goes through how you should of dealt with the it. Really good. Would surgest audio version.

P.S. Tim Ferriss is a self confessed workaholic.

27 Oct – Dr. Pete

Thanks, Richard - I'll check that out. It's funny, but over the course of this experiment, I'm finding that I'm getting a lot better at being "productive" but sometimes that begs the question of what to produce. The why and what are as tricky as the how some days.