The concept of a 4-day work week is not new. However, people still have doubts especially when the idea of “longer hours = more work done” has been drilled into us for so long. In this episode, Joe Sanok explains how productivity has less to do with the hours you work and more on how you use them. Joe is the author of Thursday is the New Friday: How to Work Fewer Hours, Make More Money, and Spend Time Doing What You Want and host of The Practice of the Practice Podcast, one of the Top 50 Podcasts worldwide. Tune in as he discusses the overvalue of work and how reduced hours can lead to increased outcomes.
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How A 4-Day Work Week Makes You More Productive And Earn More With Joe Sanok
I’m always in exploration for you to find people who are going to help you to think differently and look at your day and week differently so that you can take back time. That means working smarter because you can’t get time back but you can make sure that you were working with it as most effectively as possible.
In this episode, I have Joe Sanok with us. He’s the author of Thursday is the New Friday, and I liked that. As we were getting on, we were saying that 45 is the new 60 in terms of minutes. We will have to talk about that. It’s how to work fewer hours, make more money and spend time doing what you want. The book examines how the four-day workweek boosts creativity and productivity so we are going to talk about that for sure.
He has been featured on Forbes, GOOD Magazine and the Smart Passive Income Podcast. He is the host of the Practice of the Practice podcast, which is recognized as one of the Top 50 Podcasts worldwide with over 100,000 downloads each month. Best-selling authors, experts, scholars, business leaders and innovators are featured on that show. Without further ado, Joe, welcome to our show.
Penny, thank you so much for having me.
Tell us your story, Joe. How did you become the author and promoter of the 4 Day Workweek?
In a lot of ways, it’s a return home rather than a next step or a trajectory. I remember my freshmen orientation. I am a senior in high school. I go down to school for the weekend to get my classes going and meet all these people. The academic advisor said, “We are going to make your class schedule for the fall.” I raised my hand and said, “Do I have to take classes on Friday?” She’s like, “This is college. Do whatever you want. If you don’t want to get up at 8:00 AM, don’t schedule an 8:00 AM.” I said, “Great.”
Throughout all of my undergraduate and graduate work, I never had a Friday class except for one mandatory class in my junior year of college. Living that throughout college, I then entered into my first job as a psychologist working at a residential treatment center. It was a very traditional trajectory for the counseling and non-profit world. They offered me the job and I said to them, “I would love to do a four-day workweek.” The guy that interviewed me stepped out of the room, came back and said, “We can do that.” In my first job, I had a four-day workweek.
You asked for it and you’ve got it.
I was 25 with a Master’s degree. I thought, “This is amazing.” As I entered into the work world, I’ve got busier. I did the typical 40-hour workweek, got into the five-day, and eventually worked at a community college. Fast forward to about ten years, I was working for 40 hours plus my side gig of fifteen hours. I had a counseling practice and knew very quickly I was hitting that 50 hours a week easily. In 2015, I looked at my private practice and podcast and said, “I’m making more in this side gig of 10 to 15 hours a week than in my 40 hours a week job.”
I used the Family and Medical Leave Act when my second daughter was born to test out, whether leaving that full-time job might be a fit and it worked. I ended up leaving in the summer of 2015. When I was then able to have my own schedule again, I said, “I’m going to go back to those college days.” For that summer, I decided I will do a four-day workweek to see how it goes as an experiment, and then looked at the numbers.
The June of 2015 was the best month I had ever had financially. July, August was better than that. Very quickly, I said, “This is not an experiment anymore. This is how I’m going to live it.” I have continued to live that, done even more time experiments since then, and showed my clients and different consulting folks how to implement it within their businesses.
What is valuable is going back to that shift from high school to college where you could plan your schedule and you did it the way that you wanted. The thing is that a lot of people don’t. A lot of people have more ability to schedule their time the way that they want to and they don’t. Let’s talk about that first. Why don’t we do what is within our control? Why do we allow other forces to stop us from doing that?
When we look at the history of the industrialists, what they gave us is they taught us that everything has a blueprint. Everybody is the same. Plug them in. They are like a robot in the assembly line. We have bought into that idea that things are how they are because it is how they are. If anything has been learned from the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 is that a lot of the things that we thought were stable are shakier than we believe.
That is why we are seeing this Great Resignation is people are being asked to come back and have their 40 hours be the Key Performance Indicator, butts in the chair, rather than, “Let’s look at outcomes, our passions and excitements.” People are saying, “I’m not going to go back to that job.” Employers are oftentimes saying, “What do I even do with this?”Everything outside of our work doesn't have to serve the work. Click To Tweet
That is the shift away from that industrialist way of thinking into having a more organic way of thinking about our employees but also our businesses to let them grow and shape over time. When people enter into the work world, we are not taught, “Here’s how much autonomy you could have. How much value do you bring?” A lot of it has been, “Hopefully, you get through that interview and get offered the job.” You are just thankful to have gotten a job that you are looking forward to. You don’t want to push back at that point.
There is so much there that we could talk about but I want to go back to that point of, “Why aren’t we doing what we know?” I’m talking more about people who have that ability like entrepreneurs. They run their business and have the ability. You are saying that you think that a lot of it is passed along from this industrialist way of living. I believe that there is something to that but there is this pressure of producing and this fear of missing out.
I’m constantly having people tell me, “Instagram is the way to go. You have to be an Instagram or LinkedIn specialist. You have to have this tool. You’ve got to do that,” and it becomes overwhelming. People are dabbling in all of these different things because the fear of missing out is causing them to overwork, paradoxically reduce their productivity, and actually miss out on the things that are most important to them.
When we are burned out and stressed out, is that when we are going to do our best work? You see this hustle culture where people brag about how they have worked every Saturday since they were fourteen and it becomes an ego thing more than anything. To me, I see those people and say, “If you are working that hard, you are bad at business. You don’t have a whole lot going on in your life. You are running away from some other emotion.”
As a Psychologist and Counselor, I was like, “What are you avoiding there that you feel like you have to work and be productive? Is that what we want to call productivity? Is it just making money?” One big factor is the overvalue of work and the undervalue of fun. It’s to see that time outside of our work as, for one, recharging our brains and helping us do better and more creative work but also to have those experiences for the sake of those experiences. Everything outside of our work doesn’t have to serve the work.
Every Wednesday night I do improv with a local improv troupe. I laugh harder than I do the rest of the week. On Thursday, I don’t have to do any ab workout because I laughed so hard on Wednesday nights. It’s for the sake of laughing, having fun and pushing myself. When we did improv, they introduced a new singing and dancing game, and I was nervous for the first time in a long time. How often do I get to feel nervous?
It also helps me in a lot of other ways in my business. It’s not the reason that I do improv but there are ancillary things that helped me out in my business to think on my feet, be more okay when things fall apart, joke about things especially when they fall apart, and to say yes, and. When we start to add these things outside of our business, it makes us a more interesting business person because we have a life outside of this lane that we have been in for so long.
I’m a big fan of improv too. I have done some improv courses and it’s fun. We need to bring more fun and joy into our lives. When we do, we are going to work smarter as a result of being more relaxed and connected to ourselves and others and being able to apply that joy and fun in what we are doing. I still think that it is this impulsive problem that people have. It’s the fear of missing out. I heard this term once before and it’s, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Feel the fear of missing out or whatever it is. Also, if you say, “That’s what it is. Friday is my day to do whatever it is that brings me joy,” and then you’ve got a structure in place that supports you.
Especially for the achiever types, you need to plan those things in. Otherwise, you are going to default to going back to the things that you are working on. Put in, whether it’s the improv class, a hike with a friend, a coffee date with yourself, working out, and making sure that you have a gym buddy that is counting on you. Schedule those things in for a while before you leave yourself to your own devices. We see that taking small steps is effective. There is one thing that has resonated with people and it’s the idea of on a weekend adding one thing and removing one thing as an experiment.
What do I mean by that? It’s to add one thing in that you think is going to give you a spark of joy. Maybe there is a novel on your nightstand. It has been there for months but you keep telling yourself, “I should read my business and entrepreneur books,” but you want to read that. Maybe schedule two hours on Saturday morning to get some green tea, get that novel, set it up where the kids are taken care of, and give yourself that permission to try that out. Maybe schedule a time with that friend that you always say, “We should get together someday,” and that someday never comes.
Remove one thing from the weekend as an experiment. Maybe you have a coffee date with a friend but every time you hang out with that friend, you feel like trash. They are a toxic friend. You are old enough to not hang out with toxic people anymore and allowed to remove that from your weekend. Maybe you’ve got some yard work that you need to do, have the neighbor kid do that and take that off your plate, have those groceries delivered this weekend.
Do it as an experiment. Don’t say, “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.” Just say, “How did I feel this weekend? I read for two hours and that felt amazing. I loved it. I had my groceries delivered. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I liked grocery shopping to get away from the kids for a little bit.” You may find over time those things that help your brain slow down first, and then when you enter into the week, you can absolutely kill it, whether or not you have already moved to a three-day weekend.
I love that you did this experiment for yourself and you are encouraging other people to experiment. Something is inviting to an experiment. In the language and the way that it is that allows people to play with it as opposed to committing to it. There’s something to those words that make a big difference for people.
We are seeing that shift in society when you look at a macro scale. Henry Ford gave us the 40-hour workweek in 1926. This thing that feels so solid to us came into society. Before that, people were working 10 to 14 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week. It was needed at the time. You then look at our mindsets. We no longer think that everybody thinks the same way and we can just plug people in. We have this nuance within us.
The shift that we are seeing, especially in writing and teaching, is that we used to have these five steps-to-be-more-productive types of books that were very prescriptive and industrialist-focused. We might have a woo-woo book that says, “Make a vision board, manifest it to the universe and hope that trip to Hawaii happens.” Both had some truth to it but we knew intuitively that it wasn’t where we should land as humans. The new type of book and thinking is this experimental model where we look at books and information more like a menu to try it out and see if it works for us.In our culture, we overvalue work and undervalue fun. Click To Tweet
When companies consult with me and look at shifting to the four-day workweek, one team’s four-day workweek might look completely different than another team’s. In a bank, maybe there is an IT team that oversees the IT for ten different locations. They are going to have a different way that they approach it than another team. You can’t say, “I’m sorry. It’s Friday. You are locked out of your password. You can’t get into your bank account.” There needs to be checks and balances and overlap them. That is going to look different. Being able to test, iterate and improve it over time. It’s almost like artificial intelligence. It helps us do better work rather than going back to that old prescriptive model.
Some people might rather take Monday off. You can balance that in the organization. They are finding that as people are saying they are going back to hybrid. They can go back 3 or 4 days a week or to how they are doing it. That allows them to make their schedule a little bit more and to add the days that they want to be more flexible. When I was working in Zurich, Switzerland in a management team and just had my son, I also negotiated that I only wanted to work four days a week. Wednesday was the day that I wanted to be home because it split up the week nicely for me, so I liked Wednesday. It gives people the flexibility to choose which day is going to be that day for them.
That is why the research is so early. The pandemic made us globally say, “Why are we working this way?” We are seeing all sorts of global experiments being done with different companies where folks are reporting that out publicly. Look at the Iceland study. That was a multi-year and multidisciplinary study. It was across tons of different industries. There were 2,500 people. It was the largest study of its kind. It found that a four-day 32-hour workweek, it wasn’t cramming 40 hours into 4, was more productive than a 40-hour a week. Meaning those last eight hours are more like a hobby. Do you want that hobby to be at work or home?
They were healthier, happier and their overall outcomes were better. We are seeing these things emerge. Places like Kickstarter are saying, “In 2022, we are going to try the four-day workweek.” We see that Microsoft Japan tried the four-day workweek. We see that countries like Spain, Portugal, and New Zealand are trying these approaches. As we get more data and applications, we are going to see trends in what works with different teams and cultures so that it’s not a one-size-fits-all. There are global principles that the research points to.
I used to live in Europe and France has been doing it for some time. There is the thing where companies say that but they are not for that. You have seen that. It’s more that they are doing it for publicity. In the beginning, when France did move to this as a blanket, I remember my IT company was bought out by this French company.
In asking some of the people there, they were like, “There is no way we would ever only work the four days.” Even though it was mandated, it wasn’t appreciated. Is that the growing pains of moving into it and shifting mindsets? Is that what that is? In starting with that, not everybody is in acceptance, some bosses say you have to work and eventually get on board. Is that part of the process?
There is a natural decision-making process that happens in those situations. Some people are locked into that old way of thinking and they are not going to change. As an individual, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to work for this person if they are not willing to experiment with it?” The more effective companies are saying, “Let’s do an experiment around it and try this for a quarter. Here are the boundaries that the team will have each week,” reflecting back on those boundaries of how well people followed them and then adjusting and shaping over time.
For example, Jim from accounting sent everyone an email at 9:00 PM on a Wednesday and half the team checked it. On Thursday morning, half the team feels left out. We need to have that conversation. It may be that Jim from accounting gets some important information every Wednesday at 8:30 PM and we all need to commit to it from 9:00 to 9:15 PM. We all have to check this so we are ready for Thursday morning. We adapt and change the culture.
A lot of the supervisors or C-Suite folks haven’t lived and tried it. They haven’t seen the data. We need to be able to, from a qualitative heart side, speak to it but also from a quantitative number side to say, “We did a 32-hour week experiment. Our numbers were higher than before. Here’s the actual data.” Oftentimes, what’s happening is when we look at productivity amongst a five-day workweek, people are wasting that time anyway. They are chatting at the cooler, spending more time on email than they should and catching up or networking with someone.
They don’t have any sense of urgency and of, “I need to get things done.” Whereas when we condense it to a four-day workweek, we see Parkinson’s Law that works expands to the time given enacted and people do their highest level things within their jobs or as entrepreneurs. If I said to you, “You have to work one fewer day a week,” are you going to do the best 15 things or the worst 15 things in those days? You are going to do your best and drop the ball, which is the magic of it.
It shows you the areas that you naturally want to drop the ball, outsource or take off of your plate. Maybe you haven’t said yourself, “I’m going to preserve that extra energy for myself so that I can keep doing that highest level work.” It forces you to become more professional and work on the highest level of things within your role.
It will force better communication in the context of, “What is falling off? Why these things are less important? Is that why they are not getting done?” Also, some conversations that aren’t or haven’t been happening.
Even when I was in the non-profit world or at the community college, there would be these meetings. I would always bring a book with me. I would show up two minutes early because I was always taught, “If you are on time, you are late.” I would bring a book with me, sit alone for 7 or 8 minutes and read a book. Everyone would show up 5 or 8 minutes late. They would often go over, and then be late to their next meeting.
We should have a conversation around why is there not a sense of urgency? Why is there no sense of what are we doing here? Why do we have fifteen people at this table just to inform them over something we could have sent something on Slack to everybody? It’s having those conversations. If we knew we only had a four-day workweek, “Let’s cut all of our meetings in half or a third, do our top-level things, get it done and move on.”
That is why I said 45 is the new 60. Why do we do back-to-back meetings? Let’s change it in a blanket way that we are going to, as you said for Parkinson’s Law, make all 60-minute meetings into 45 minutes as an experiment and see how it works. Are we more productive and efficient? Are our meetings more organized and have more of a sense of urgency? Give people a break so that they are not late for the next meeting and all that goes along with that.
Also, to feel like you don’t have to fill that meeting. We had our monthly team meeting, brought everybody together and started on time. We have a whole team from South Africa so we get their side of things done first, kick them out of the meeting. We then have the consultants and other folks then chat, kick them out and then move on. Our 60-minute scheduled meeting was done in 36 minutes. I’m not going to drag it out to 60 minutes. We don’t need to do tons of check-ins. Let’s get back to what we want to work on.
This has been an eye-opening conversation for some people who may be on the side of, “I don’t believe this.” I’m encouraging all of you who are reading to experiment with what you read. Why not? You don’t have to commit to a whole year of an experiment. Experiment with it for a month and let the data speak for itself. What didn’t I ask you that you feel is important and relevant for people to read?
The big picture flow that we are seeing is first starting internally with our internal inclinations. In the past, you go read a productivity book and try to enact it. You might be working on the wrong things. It’s doing that inner work first. This is mirrored in the book where I walked through these different sections. The second part is slowing down. We do our best work when we have slowed down and optimized our brains. There are so many emerging neuroscience techniques that we can apply to then, in that third phase, absolutely kill it. When we do show up at work, we can get more done.
There are so many things that we can do using that neuroscience to get more done. Even something as simple as changing your environment for when you are working on different tasks can drop you into flow states significantly faster. For example, when I was writing the book, every single time I wrote the book, I changed the lighting to particular lighting in here for the writing. I moved the chair in my room, had specific headphones I wore only when I was writing the book and I had a playlist I only listened to when I was writing that book.We do our best work when we've slowed down and optimized our brains. Click To Tweet
Whenever I do interviews, I always wear the same shirt. I have multiples of this shirt so that I feel like I’m in interview mode like, “Let’s go.” When we create an environment that tells us, “You are safe and ready to go. Here, let’s do it,” your brain can drop into that flow state so much faster. There’s so much of that emerging neuroscience that if we follow that flow of the internal, the slowdown, and the kill it, you can get so much more done in a shorter time.
Do you have any resources for us and other good books to read around neuroscience techniques and things like that?
I love The ONE Thing. That’s a great business book that many people have referenced in regards to focusing on getting more done. From a personal development side, Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul is a great book about allowing your emotions, history, and frustrations to move through you rather than get all locked up inside of you. As you are cleaner and feel more grounded, you are going to do better work. Those would be the two that I absolutely love. The third thing is I wrote an article for Harvard Business Review called How to Ask Your Boss for a 4-Day Workweek. It goes deep into how to specifically ask your boss for that. If you are a supervisor, it walks through that process. Those would be the three other than my book.
Lastly, a lot of times, people are looking for good resources like you gave in terms of what to read. If I were to clear everything off of your desktop other than your email and calendar and erase your phone, what would the first apps be that you would add back?
The first apps I would add back would most likely be something to connect with my friends and family to make sure that that was first and foremost. If we are talking about productivity, I would say Trello. I love using Trello for project management. Definitely, I would add Spotify first thing. I want to jam out to some good tunes before anything else.
Music is a real productivity enhancement as well.
If you think about, when did people, from an evolution standpoint, first start collaborating and creating something where multiple people create one thing? Music meets that. It’s all these people doing something that then collectively becomes its own thing outside of the people. From a human consciousness standpoint, it’s a pretty marvelous thing to think about all these humans working together to create one product together.
It’s a product that makes people happy.
There are so many songs that I can’t help but dance to.
Thank you so much for sharing your expertise here. Where can people go find more information about you?
JoeSanok.com is my primary website for keynotes and the book. We also have people submitting experiments there. If you are doing any four-day workweek experiment or applying anything from Thursday is the New Friday, we want to know about it. We know that this isn’t going to be a shift in society that happens with one Henry Ford.
It’s going to be all of us working together to say, “We are the post-pandemic generation. We want to change things. We have a window of opportunity here for us to be able to shift society towards something healthier than what we had pre-pandemic.” We are bringing those experiments together over at my website so that we can learn and grow from each other and say, “Let’s see how other people are applying this.”
Thanks so much, Joe, for being here.
Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you all for reading and being ready to do your first experiment. I want to hear from you as well. Make sure that you are checking in with Joe and registering your experiments. I want to hear what you guys are doing as well so please do share it with me, subscribe, share what you have learned from this show, and share it with other people. Thank you all for being here.
- Thursday is the New Friday: How to Work Fewer Hours, Make More Money, and Spend Time Doing What You Want
- Thursday Is The New Friday
- Practice of the Practice
- The ONE Thing
- The Untethered Soul
- How to Ask Your Boss for a 4-Day Workweek – Article
About Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok is the author of Thursday is the New Friday: How to work fewer hours, make more money, and spend time doing what you want. It examines how the four-day workweek boosts creativity and productivity. Joe has been featured on Forbes, GOOD Magazine, and the Smart Passive Income Podcast. He is the host of the popular The Practice of the Practice Podcast, which is recognized as one of the Top 50 Podcasts worldwide with over 100,000 downloads each month. Bestselling authors, experts, scholars, and business leaders and innovators are featured and interviewed in the 550 plus podcasts he has done over the last six years