Why the 8-Hour Work Day Is Dead

Digital nomads and remote employees are becoming the norm. Schedules are becoming more fluid and flexible. This new working lifestyle is designed to maximize productivity, efficiency, quality and collaboration. 

...and yet here we are.

Scenario: my deadline for a project is due for a review within the next two hours. My phone turns off. I close my email. I take the design from the research stages to the conceptual stage within an hour. I am forced to make decisions and not overthink my choices.

Scenario: My deadline for the same project is due for a review in two weeks. I promise you that I will discover ways of stretching out that project for the next ten working days.

And the outcome would be about the same.

Sure, there are such things as the “ongoing” or the “long-term” project. But they can only account for a couple hours or maybe even a chunk of dedicated minutes out of the average work day.

Our productivity suffers the longer we work… so why not just work at our peak hours and call it a day?

Because humans are funny creatures. We are accessible through an impressive range of technology and social platforms, and yet our culture insists that we show up to the office. For 8 hours. Every day.

This isn’t sustainable but we can’t change what’s expected of us. So we find things to fill the time.

We get coffee. We schedule meetings and enjoy social conversations. We check our email for the billionth time even though we are all within shouting distance of one another.

But if you can finish a project in such a short amount of time, shouldn't you be able to do that every time?

Yes and no. That requires having the autonomy to choose your own hours. And nobody can be 100% productive for 8 hours at a time. It's just not realistic. Or healthy.

Designer Lauren Hooker from Elle & Company Design. has implemented an amazing system for getting the most out of her valuable time. She schedules her clients for two week increments. That’s it. From logo and brand identity to website design. Two weeks. That’s all it takes.

But how! Even a basic web design should take weeks! Months, at least!

Not so. Lauren found a modus operandi that worked for her and she is capitalizing on it. Instead of trying to juggle a variety of clients, she hunkers down for two weeks and focuses on one client. It’s brilliant. And it's brilliant because it works for her.

So why don’t more of us do that? Why don’t more of us define the task, determine our own deadline, complete it, and move on to the next thing?

Because there’s 4 hours left in the work day and your next deadline isn't until next Thursday.

So maybe it’s time for lunch.

The initial excitement I feel at the start of a project is what motivates me to do my most extensive research. Add that to a tight deadline and I've got to make snap decisions that will best serve the client. 

It's not that I work well under pressure. I don't think anyone really does. It's the fact that I am actually working under pressure. On top of that, the process of review and feedback goes faster. Everybody wins.

And there's still 4 hours left in the work day. 

Of course, it’s easy to say, "Yeah, I'll just work better and faster and not as much!" The reality is difficult to imagine.

But maybe it's only difficult because old habits are hard to break...

*starts swinging the baseball bat*