Productivity secret: The 40-hour work week

How many hours per week do you work?

In her compelling essay, Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity, AlterNet’s Sara Robinson lays out decades of research backing the 40-hour work week wisdom and discusses how a down economy and the “passion” of Silicon Valley helped us lose sight of these well-documented facts. She ultimately calls for the return of the 40-hour work week—not just as a route to better health, sanity, and productivity for all, but also as a way to create jobs, arguing that “[f]or every four Americans working a 50-hour week, every week, there’s one American who should have a full-time job, but doesn’t.” Robinson’s conclusion says it all:

For the good of our bodies, our families, our communities, the profitability of American companies, and the future of the country, this insanity has to stop. Working long days and weeks has been incontrovertibly proven to be the stupidest, most expensive way there is to get work done. Our bosses are depleting resources from of the human capital pool without replenishing them. They are taking time, energy, and resources that rightfully belong to us, and are part of our national common wealth.

Your turn: If you do work over 40 hours per week, why do you do so?

Special thanks to my colleague, Kathryn Burke-Howe, from Performance Development Group for referring me to this story.

A Call to Action: Once! Now!

Bestselling author (and personal superhero) Kevin Kruse laid down some serious wisdom today. I am highlighting Kevin’s message here for two reasons:

  1. By sharing Kevin’s time management notion of “Touch it once” in this post, I’m doing just that – taking a cool idea that can be executed in less than five minutes and acting on it now, rather than adding the idea to an endless pile of “I oughtas.”
  2. By sharing this creative cadence with you, perhaps we can collectively amplify the drum beat of chaos-free productivity.

Here’s Kevin’s “Touch It Once” Cadence Call…

January 24, 2012 0 Comments

10:00am. My hour of power for health is complete, and I’ve finished an hour of focused writing time. Time to open my email accounts…deep breath.

The Google alert on my own name shows that my previously scheduled blog post went live this morning. I hop over to to make sure it’s all good and notice a typo (“they” should read “my friend”). Damn, I’ll have to fix that in a few minutes after I scan the rest of my emails.

“No! Touch it once,” my inner voice reminds me. I quickly open WordPress and fix the typo.

Next email is from a freelancer giving me his EIN number so my accountant can prep a 1099. I’ll have to send that along with a note to my accountant later.

“No. Touch it once.” I hit Forward, add a few lines and off it goes.

Next email. New invoice from an advisor. “What?! I wasn’t expecting this,” I think to myself. Double-click the PDF. Yep, it’s right. Damn, I just finished paying bills yesterday. I’ll have to stack this for my next scheduled bill pay session.

“No. Just do it now. Touch it once.” Fortunately he takes credit cards. Open the form, type in my info. Email it back. Good, only 3 minutes.

Next email. I joined the Pennsylvania Society. Somebody needs to know if it’s a non-profit or not. How the heck do I know? Who can I pass this onto? Oh,

“touch it once.” I open a new tab in my browser and go to their page. Quickly scan 2-3 of their pages. No mention of 501(c)3 status. Reply to email: don’t think so.

Hmmm, I should write a blog post someday about how the voice in my head chants “touch it once” as I clear my inbox each morning. Yeah, that would be a good one. Wait!” Open WordPress, start typing the new blog post. Title, “Touch It Once.”

Touch it once. Touch it once. Touch it once. It’s the cadence call of efficiency and productivity.

Whether I’m going through my paper inbox on my desk, or the email inbox on my computer, if the item at hand can be taken care of in less than 5 minutes I do it right then and there. If I can delegate it, I’ll do that. Otherwise I’ll schedule time to complete it.

Touch it once.

[Now clicking the Publish button] 

Check out Kevin’s blog post for more.