4 Reasons Why the 40 Hour Work Week Is Bullsh*t

I heard a statistic the other day.

77% of Americans HATE their job.

Hate? Wow, that seems pretty strong for something most people spend the majority of their days doing.

Typically, the reason is that their “Why” isn’t very strong. In other words, most people are just working for money…so they can afford their lifestyle. Work is just a necessary evil to get a paycheck or enough to pay the rent, pay off loans, not starve, and have a little beer money for the weekends.

I’ve done this. Money helps in many ways, but spending 40 hours a week just to be able to keep up is wasting life!

Working to achieve more freedom, and/or actually enjoying and being fulfilled by the work you do will clearly lead to more happiness.

40 hours a week is just an arbitrary number that people have subscribed to, mostly because of government dictations and spending our chilhoods in government indoctrination camps.

And just look where it has lead us with everyone miserable at their jobs? I’m not saying people should live the “4 Hour Work Week” ala Tim Ferriss, or that they should necessarily even change how much work they are putting in during the week. Maybe you actually want to spend 50 or 60 or more hours working? Maybe you can think of nothing else you’d rather do. That’s awesome!

But fixating on 40 hours isn’t some panacea for doing things “right”. Here’s why:

1. In most of the jobs I’ve had with big companies, or even small ones, far less work gets done in the 8 or 9 hours people are in the office. There’s the BS’ing around the water cooler. There’s the hour and a half lunches. There’s the personal emails, phone calls, and Facebook checking. Then there’s the corporate nonsense that usually goes along with these jobs like pointless meetings, and weekly progress reports. when all is said and done, most people probably actually work 2 or 3 hours a day and keep the illusion of 8 hours going.

2. 40 hours a week leads to thinking that “being busy” means getting things done. I contend that being busy can actually be contrary to getting things done. You can feel stressed, hurried, and overwhelmed, and tell everyone that you are “crazy busy”, but this often just leads to the feeling of working hard and being productive. Because society pretends that the simple act of “being busy” is a badge of honor, you can gain a little false self esteem by describing your days like this.

Crazy busy!

3. Managing energy is far more important than averaging time. I liked this post by Sean Ogle on Why You Should Quit Work at Noon Everyday. For many people, this kind of thing will work well. For others, starting work before noon would be incredibly difficult and productivity would be at their low of the day. Research has shown that our minds can focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes, then we need a 20-30 minute break to recharge. A method that is popular among entrepreneurs and writers is the “Pomodoro Technique“- which is, working in 4 25-minute segments with 5-minute breaks in between, then a 30-minute break and starting again. You could apply this technique and get more done in just 4 of these segments (1 hour, 40 minutes total work) than many people do all day!

4. We are not machines. 8 hours of work between 8-5 is not some inherent trait in humans. Maybe one day you only have 1 hour of productive work in you, and after that you should spend your day pleasure reading, napping, and wandering around. The next day you may have 14 hours in you. Or the day after. Who cares? We should be willing to quit work when it’s no longer productive. A study last year showed a big drop in productivity after 8 hours anyway.

It’s time to take back our freedom to work when it makes sense, not when society tells us we should, or just carrying on traditions for traditions’ sake.