The religious and political upheaval of 16th-century Europe had profound consequences. Spiritual and government forces began imposing their agendas on people’s lives, especially on the role and purpose of people’s work. Rather than providing a means to an end, work became salvation, keeping idle hands occupied and cleansing the soul through labor.
Centuries later, German sociologist Max Weber found that this new, religion-driven work ethic demanded diligence, punctuality, deferred gratification, and acceptance that the workplace was more sacred than the home.
In other words: Be obedient, be punctual, forget happiness, and cherish work above all else. Work became life, and breadwinning became the mark of masculinity.
After so much time, it’s easy to forget this idea was originated by men and women just like you and me. The only difference is they were in powerful enough positions to spread their agendas and change entire societies. Today, those notions continue to dominate modern work life, especially for fathers. An ongoing study from 1977 to 2008 revealed a rise in work-family conflict for men, jumping from 35 percent to 60 percent.
It’s a conflict that didn’t always exist and doesn’t have to now. By adopting the five-hour workday, you not only free your time for your children and family, but you also have more energy to devote to them in that time. No more conflict.
Work-Life Balance in the Last Half-Century
Fifty years ago, we had a definitive middle class, and nobody worked more than 50 hours a week. This left plenty of time to spend with loved ones, which created a strong family atmosphere full of shared dinners, activities, and time spent together.
A decade or two later, the cost of living rose and wages plateaued, forcing both parents to work to make ends meet. Children got out of school at 2:30 p.m., but both parents typically remained on the job until 5 p.m. or later, meaning less family time and additional child care expenses.
Going forward another couple of decades to today, the cost of living and raising children is outrageous, and wages remain largely the same. There is no more making it home by 5 p.m., either. For more than half the country, it’s more like home by 7 p.m., adding two hours to lost family time and daycare expenses.
But it’s the children who pay the biggest price. In 2013, UNICEF conducted a comprehensive study of children’s happiness and well-being in 29 of the most developed countries in the world. After 50 years of forcing work into the center of our lives, the United States ranked number 26, the fourth-worst of all eligible countries.
Working for a Better Quality of Life
On a recent trip to South Africa, someone I spoke with was shocked to learn that approximately half of all marriages in America end in divorce. South Africa, on the other hand, has an unemployment rate of about 50 percent, and poverty is everywhere. But the kids are happier because families have time to interact, play, and bond.
What would American marriages look like now if parents were done with work by 1 p.m.? They can catch every game, every recital, and every community event. Parents could have time to keep the marriage fresh; even family dinners and movie nights would once again become the norm.
As a father, I’m experiencing this reversal in my own life, with my son. Because my workdays end at 1 p.m., our time together is 100 percent me and him. For example, this is the first time in his life that coaching his baseball team is an option for me. My tiny team and I run one of the fastest-growing companies in the country, yet I can coach Little League on the side if I want. The great thing is that so could you.
Your paternal outlook would be so different if you had time to enjoy what mattered most instead of losing time to work responsibilities. If you contemplate leaving work every day by 1 p.m., it’s easy to imagine how you’d spend that extra time with your children and family.
Realistically speaking, though, a five-hour workday isn’t feasible for most people. Yet the same principles that make it possible for others can help you gain more quality time with your family, even with a typical workday schedule.
1. Track efficiency and productivity, not time. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz wrote an article that really stood out to me titled “Work Hard, Live Well.” In it, he recalled a group of high schoolers who once asked him whether he had any regrets. He said he’d have slept more, exercised more, and had a more balanced life. The students wondered aloud whether that would’ve taken away from his focus and leadership in growing Facebook.
“Actually,” he wrote, “I believe I would’ve been more effective: A better leader and a more focused employee. … In short, I would have had more energy and spent it in smarter ways … and I would have been happier. That’s why this is a true regret for me: I don’t feel like I chose between two worthy outcomes. No, I made a foolish sacrifice on both sides.”
Rather than tracking the time you put into work, track your efficiency and productivity in the time that you’re working.
2. Leave work at the front door. Technology has made it easy for us to work from anywhere, and as an employee, it certainly does buy you freedom. If you have kids, then that’s especially helpful, and it’s a major influence behind many people’s desires to telecommute. But it isn’t an ideal solution for productivity.
We don’t telecommute in our company because our five-hour system makes us extremely productive in the office. After running my own businesses from home and from offices over the years, I’ve learned that I get much more done when I’m in the office.
Home holds too many distractions: Your kids are there, your pets are there, and there’s no one to keep you on task but yourself. If possible, choose to work in the office so your surroundings encourage you to be more productive.
3. Rethink what success means to you. Here’s something that surprised me: Success is becoming about more than just maximizing your dollars. Up until the past few years, I always believed success demanded trade-offs: I can be a gym rat or a successful businessman; I can have good relationships or a good career — not both.
But today’s successful entrepreneurs and their companies have repeatedly proved me wrong. They’re basically already operating in this five-hour workday world, showing us that we can indeed have it all, and it makes sense. The same mentality needed to maximize productivity could also be used to optimize physical strength, relationships, and anything else.
When I adopted this same mindset, I finally realized that I don’t have to pick what success means to me — I could have it all.
Redefine your success by rethinking what you want it to be. For me, it’s the ability to pursue both quality of life and success in business, and the five-hour workday philosophy is the best way to achieve it.
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