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Break Free From the 5-Day Work Schedule by Hacking Your Productivity

I remember the story of the race between the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise starts out really slow. The hare almost gets to the finish line but becomes arrogant in his lead and decides to sit next to a tree. The hare falls asleep and the slow and steady tortoise passes the hare to win the race.

The point of this story is to teach perseverance and to see value in other ways of being when the addiction to speed compels us to rush through everything. Our need to do everything quicker, to seamlessly multitask, and to always be “on” to meet growing demand can feel like accomplishment.

The approach that I teach certainly values hard work and forward movement, but all while balancing the need to slow down to recover, regroup, and allow for insight about what you should most be engaged in.

I’m rooting for the hare. The hare runs his fastest, but he knows when to stop and relax a bit. He just needed to set a timer to wake up. It’s the tortoise that represents the nonstop movement narrative. Be slow and steady, instead of inspired and tired.

I’ll take being inspired and tired any day.

It’s the difference between playing music in the background all day and intentionally choosing to listen to music. When it’s just playing, you tune it out, go in and out of your thoughts, and it’s just a layer of your environment. Whereas, when you intentionally listen to dance music with your kids or friends, you jam to every song. Each song is the focus.

The tortoise represents nonstop movement; the hare is inspired and tired.

As professionals set up their practices or as anyone makes the move from a more structured environment in their job to owning their own business, it is easy to stay too busy to notice little things or have any deep thoughts about what you are doing. In other words, you may be living what you thought was your dream, but are you creating the time to take it all in?

How to integrate breaks and boundaries into a busy life

In our mind’s eye, we equate slowing down with stopping. Sure, it can be that. We know the pull to unplug and think we’ll get restored on vacation. But the positive effects of one concentrated getaway are hard to sustain.

Sometimes you’re just beginning to reconnect with yourself when it is time to jump back in. We all know that feeling when the stress begins to creep back in even before we return to our demands. When I talk about slowing down, I’m talking about reducing, eliminating, and stopping. In my version of slowing down, we’re building habits and setting boundaries to open the way for true elimination of mental fatigue and squandered spirit.

Paving the way for a more productive schedule

My approach alternates structured slow down with times of focused and compressed work. Throughout my work with thousands, I see the ability to alternate periods of sprinting and periods of pausing to be one of the greatest determinants of success. Sometimes it’s working sixty-plus hours per week to make a success of a dream business. Sometimes it is building a side-hustle to ease your transition from being an employee to owning your own business. Sometimes the rhythm is about phases of parenting or taking care of another family commitment, such as when you’re sandwiched between taking care of both parents and kids.

The reality is, life isn’t really a marathon where we never stop. Instead, it’s a bunch of sprints and rests; it’s like a pause button and a fast-forward button. What I teach clears the way and shows you how you can create a viable rhythm between work and relaxation that:

  1. Reduces stress
  2. Makes you more productive
  3. Ignites creativity
  4. Adds structure
  5. Supports action followed by enjoyment and rest
  6. Creates a sustainable system

Create your own schedule, maximize your leisure time, and work less while making more by following the revolutionary—yet realistic—four-day work week outlined in this groundbreaking book.

WATCH: First Step to Working Less

Build more days off into your week

The forty-hour (or more) workweek that spans five days has become an established aspect of society. Out of seven days, we work five and take two off—that’s always been the case, right?

In fact, the five-day workweek became the norm only after Henry Ford established it in his factories in May 1926. The seven-day week or the five-day workweek are arbitrary and changeable, and so is how we run our businesses. It’s “the way it is” for almost no good reason. It is how it is because it is how it has been.

Science overwhelmingly shows that through slowing down our creativity and productivity expand exponentially. We need the new Henry Fords to make clear and authoritative statements about the next step of human potential as we move away from a five-day workweek.

Imagine being in a flow between slowing down and killin’ it in work that feels like anything else in nature. Instead of a 5:2 ratio of workdays:rest, we move toward 4:3, and then who knows where we go from there?

Become more productive by giving yourself permission to slow down

You may recall that in the story that opens this article, the hare is arrogant and thinks he has the race easily won so he takes a break too soon.

In my process, I teach how to pulse your time and effort between slowing down and killin’ it. Creating a symbiotic rhythm between these two is the answer to creating a whole new life.

Deep down, we know this to be true; we don’t want to work all the time and we want our work to matter.


Pull out your schedule. Look ahead and block out time for your first sprint. Maybe it’s next Tuesday morning for thirty minutes. Maybe it’s an hour Thursday afternoon. It could be in a few weeks. Put it in.

Now, look ahead and block out some time that can repeat. Schedule some boundaries to slow down. Here are some Slow Down Boundary ideas:

  • Schedule thirty minutes each morning to walk or work out.
  • Sign up for a weekly workout class.
  • Block out one Friday a month from work.
  • Schedule all your medical appointments in one month.
  • Block out lunch on Wednesday and commit to having a non-business lunch with a friend or someone important.
  • Listen to a podcast that fills you up spiritually.
  • Meditate more than you do now.
  • Set time aside to go into nature.
  • Do a five-sense exercise where you focus on one sense at a time.
  • Take time on Friday afternoons to do all your errands for the weekend so you can have fun.
  • Plan things on the weekend that are fun, not just getting things done.
  • Don’t catch up on work email or texts after work hours.

Think through all that you need to remove from your plate in the coming weeks to try an experiment.

There will be no typical week, but here is a potential schedule:

Monday–Thursday: Seek to work no more than eight hours. Identify your body’s needs for food, breaks, and movement. Try to double up phone calls and a walk so you are meeting needs during this time. Frequently think about the single best use of your time.

Friday–Sunday: Move toward working less. This might start with being done by 3:00 p.m. Then move it to noon. Then once a month take a full Friday off. We’re looking for progress, not perfection. Push yourself to get as much done in four days as possible. For a while spend Friday getting life things done so that you have two full days of fun and adventure over the weekend. Don’t look at your next week’s schedule until Sunday after dinner.

Excerpted with permission from Thursday is the New Friday by Joe Sanok, copyright Joe Sanok.

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Joe Sanok

Joe Sanok is the host of the popular The Practice of the Practice podcast which is recognized as one of the Top 50 Podcasts worldwide with over 100,000 downloads each month. Bestselling authors, experts and scholars, and business leaders and innovators are featured and interviewed in the 550 plus podcasts he has done over the last six years. Hometown: Traverse City, MI

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