How I Manage to Work a 5-Hour Workday
‘Busy’ is not a badge of honor — more often, it’s the mark of someone who can’t manage their time
There was a time when I was proud of how long and hard I worked. When my most significant relationship was with a meal-delivery service that allowed me to chain myself to a laptop for 16 hours a day. When I missed important life moments of the people close to me — from weddings to baby showers to divorce parties — because I was tethered to a pitch deck or Ubering to another meeting or doing something I thought I was necessary to thrive as a marketing exec.
My own devotion to the cult of overwork eventually led me to a nervous breakdown, insomnia, and a host of other health-related issues. Far too late, I reached a point when I was done crushing it, killing it, destroying it, or whatever other violent metaphor I happened to be channeling that day. I wanted a life. I wanted to spend my time with the people I love. I wanted to toast my friend at her divorce party. So I quit trying to work harder and learned how to work smarter.
By completely gut-renovating the way I approached my job, I now manage to work an efficient five hours a day. I don’t get less done; I just do it in less time, freeing myself up for the things that matter. Here are the strategies that got me there — maybe they’ll help you reclaim your time, too.
First, I tracked how I spent my time (spoiler: I was a mess)
For a month, I used a free time-tracking app to tabulate my movements over the course of a day. Where was I spending my time and energy? How long did it take me to perform certain tasks?
The results made me aware of epic time-sucks in my day. I learned that I wasted time tethered to social media and notifications. I threw hours into the bin thanks to task-switching. (Phone calls would drain me, and it would take an hour or two for me to return to work mode.) I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy on administrative tasks — onboarding…