After years of food service and now years of office work, I’ve become increasingly convinced that my most effective work day caps out at six hours.
It’s not that I don’t want to work for right hours — not any less than most 9-5’ers. It’s more that I find it difficult to be 100% focused across an eight-hour work day.
My mental energy tends to peak around six hours, and then flag. I usually end up taking a late break, powering through morning meetings and a couple of big to-do list items before I feel my attention span slip.
So I try to take a break, meditate or exercise or just get away from my computer for a bit. Then I return to my desk and see what I can get done in the remaining hours of the afternoon to clock my average eight. Obviously, there are days when I get caught up in something and work longer, and there are days where a life priority needs my attention.
I sometimes wonder what my daily routine could be with a six-hour work day instead of eight.
I would want to start at the same time, get the kids to daycare and jump straight in.
Then I could work a full shift with limited breaks — a few minutes here or there to refill my coffee, et cetera — and logoff with a couple hours to spare before I picked up the kids.
Some days, I might lounge in relative relaxation. Most days, though, I would tackle all the second shift priorities that I otherwise compartmentalize for most of the day:
- Exercising with a real routine
- Appointments for the doctor, the eye doctor, the vet, the dentist, the mechanic
- Dinner prep
- Grocery shopping
- Yard work
Needless to say, that is far too many things to do in a single two-hour window, but does across a week’s worth of six-hour work days? I could get a lot done.
Then I consider my alternate day job, the one so many are chasing or pretending not to chase.
Writing. What if writing could be my job, six hours per day. Six hours of dedicated writing, or world building, or publishing logistics, without the guilt over spending so much time on a hobby, or the anxiety over not spending enough time doing the things you enjoy.
That would be my schedule in an alternate life. I’m not actively chasing it, and frankly, I’d be content with just a six-hour work day.
Life has endless priorities as it is, and it feels like balancing them takes just as much effort as actually accomplishing anything.
I’m curious — who it there has a non-conventional work schedule? Part-time? Stay-at-home? Professional writer? How does the balance shift for you?