Get to Work Early, Go Home Early

Michael’s Note:
I’m working on a book about productivity for the solopreneur — the one-person band —  so am thrilled to share with you a few tips — he calls them hacks — from one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Leo Babauta.  He has allowed me (or, you, or anyone else on the planet) to republish some of his work under his insanely creative and interesting unCopyright process. So, thanks for all that Leo, and hoping this will help send a few fans your way. I do what I can, Leo.


Get to work early, and leave early.

Work fewer hours.

There’s nothing magic — despite its over-hype and long tradition in many industries — or sexy, or interesting, or fun, or amusing about long hours.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

In fact this is one of my favorite productivity tips.

My best days come when I get into work early, and begin my work day in the quiet morning hours, before the phones start ringing and the din of the office begins it crescendo to chaos. It is so peaceful, and I can work without interruption or losing focus. I often find that I get my MITs done before anyone comes in, and then the rest of the day is dealing with whatever comes up (or even better: getting ahead for the next day).

Added bonus: you skip rush-hour traffic.

But just as productive is the second part of the tip: leave early and work fewer hours. I don’t mean to shift your 8-hour day to 7 a.m.-4 p.m. … that by itself would work well, but I’m recommending you take it even further: work only six or seven hours.

One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.

~ E. M. Forster

I know: you may not be able to take this option, depending on your job. But you might be surprised. Many bosses are not worried so much about the number of hours you work, but the amount that you produce. So think out a plan, write up a proposal, and talk to your boss. The worst that can happen is she will say “no.” If you work for yourself, you have no excuse.

Why does this productivity hack work? If you commit to working only six hours today, and leaving by 3 p.m., you have a much tighter deadline. You have no time to waste surfing the net or playing solitaire or talking to your coworkers or sitting in long meetings. You must crank out the work, and get everything done, so you can get out of the office on time. On the days when I leave early and know that I have to get out of the office early, I am focused. I’m a productivity machine.

Motivation tip for this hack: set a daily appointment, so that you’ll be sure to get out of the office on time. This could be a workout appointment with a workout buddy, or the need to pick up your kids, or something you need to do with your significant other. Whatever it is, be sure that you will not miss it, and get out of the office in time to be there.

It’s paradoxical, but if you work fewer hours, and know that your time is limited, you will be more focused. Then you have more hours to yourself! Everyone wins.

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