Earning five hours of free time per week: five keys to getting there

Leaving the office at 8 p.m., endless weeks and the feeling of running after time are not inevitable. No need to turn everything upside down to gain precious hours of free time. 5 ways to sharpen your eye… and tighten your agenda.

Five hours, almost a day’s work. This is the time that French workers estimate to lose on average per week, according to an OpinionWay study for Slack, conducted in the fall of 2022 on a sample of 1,000 people. A precious time, sucked up by the vortex of useless or overly long meetings, during which half of the participants wonder what they are doing there… and which many would like to put to good use in another way. Respondents would prefer to rest (26% of respondents), reduce stress (20%), spend time with loved ones (21%), manage personal administrative tasks or play sports. To live, in short, outside the office.

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So, is this “lost” time a fatality? Probably not, judging by the growing number of companies that are experimenting with the four-day week – the results are conclusive – all over Europe, and those that have already taken this pace. If they succeed in eliminating a weekly working day, it’s a safe bet that everyone, on their own scale, can recover a few hours of badly used time. Even if that means shaking up your habits and redefining your priorities.

Limit meetings and better organize them

“We have developed a different relationship with time”, underlines Camille Fauran, general manager of Welcome to the Jungle, both a job search platform and a specialized work media, which adopted the four-day week at the start of 2020. after a six-month trial period. “We have sharpened the meetings: we seek more to understand why such a person attends them, to avoid presenteeism and tensions, continues Camille Fauran. When we meet, we set an agenda, we identify the next steps, and we respect a timing of about 45 minutes, maximum. By the way, it was an opportunity to enhance the sharing of information in writing, in an asynchronous way.

If the same rule cannot apply to all jobs, each team can decide on its own – limit the number of meetings per week, only set a point with such a manager to make decisions, etc. Everyone, within their team, can also play this key role, which consists of questioning the merits of a meeting and questioning the way it is organized, in order to propose alternatives. And, with a little luck and conviction, manage to leave an hour earlier in the evening.

Block ranges of deep work

Another option: reserve time slots to move forward on substantive issues. Some have adopted deep work, a concentration technique defined by Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University, in the United States. The idea? Get out of the flood of information, requests – “Can I see you for five minutes?” – and notifications from your mobile phone to concentrate intensely, and for a long time. “As soon as you tackle a complex task, there is no better way to move forward, coach Diane Ballonad-Rolland, founder of the firm Time and Balance, explained to us recently. If you don’t extract yourself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to free yourself from relatively long beaches, you won’t succeed. But, above all, when planning ranges of deep work during the week, you quickly realize that the work experience becomes less unpleasant, less energy-consuming and less time-consuming.»

Some managers themselves encourage their teams to sanctify time slots deep work weekly. For others, it’s about driving the movement yourself. It is better to avoid going it alone, without alerting anyone: we then run the risk of irritating colleagues and managers, who may need us urgently. On the other hand, you can fully anticipate and explain to your team that, to complete a certain file in time, you will be unreachable on such a day, on such a time slot. Before sharing, around a coffee or the water fountain, all the benefits that we derive from these concentration ranges… and to emulate?

Accept that prioritizing is giving up

The observation is simple, but unavoidable: to work less, you have to do less. So choose, prioritize and sacrifice certain files or projects. “We brought together the Comex and the managers a lot to formalize our priorities, our strategy and our key areas of work over the next two years, explains Camille Fauran, from Welcome to the Jungle. This led us to stop projects, even if they had meaning and potential. We learn to make the right choices at the right times.”

Without this impulse from above? You can start by saying “no” to your leader. “No” to a new file if we are not relieved of another, “no” to a new short deadline… It is not a question of banging the fist on the table but of explaining that everything is not is not feasible at the same time; that, by definition, you can only have one emergency at a time; but that we lighten up one file also allows us to complete another in time. Of course, this implies a form of renunciation… which is also a way of exercising one’s freedom.

Track micro-tasks

Same thing with the invisible but time-consuming microtasks, which sometimes stem from outdated habits or a lack of arms. “This is one of our important lessons, continues Camille Fauran: to compensate for process dysfunctional, many of our employees took on small tasks that took up their working time. We have therefore created positions dedicated to performance analysis and time efficiency, to improve the daily lives of our teams and allow them to devote themselves to substantive work.” There too, one can imagine taking the initiative of a discussion with his boss to describe to him what is wasting our time, of which he is doubtless not aware. All coaches say it: it is important to learn how to manage your manager. And saving time for yourself seems the best reason to get started.

Know why we fight

The challenge, then, remains to last over time and not to sacrifice these times for oneself as soon as an emergency looms on the horizon. Hence the importance of deciding what you want to do with this time out of the office, whether it’s to clear your mind or to “manage” tasks for which you don’t have time. Doing sports, reading more, getting into a manual activity, picking up the children from school, spending time with your spouse… This is perhaps one of the most powerful attractions of current working world, and its evolutions – as proof, the success of self-employment: the freedom to define one’s free time. And, little by little, its own rhythm.

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