#590 The 4-Hour Workday

The Magic Number for Greatness?

In our last +1, we talked about the fact that we need to train our recovery the same way we train our Deep Work. We want to create nice, rhythmic waves in our lives and prioritize rest. One great way to do that? Deep Play.

I briefly mentioned the fact that, as Alex Pang tells us in his great book Rest, when we look closely at the routines of some of history’s greatest, most creative and most prolific creators what we find is that they don’t actually work that much.

Here’s how he puts it: “Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the results of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours. …

If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours, maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they labored but how they rested, and how the two relate.”

That again, is from a chapter he calls “4 Hours.”

As in, the greatest creators tend to work only 4 hours a day.

But, they put first things first and GO DEEP.

Then, they recover.

The 4-Hour Workday. ← That would be an epic book.

btw: For those paying close attention, you may recall that we actually had a very similar +1 not too long ago featuring wisdom from Anders Ericsson and Tony Schwartz. We called that one The 4.5-Hour Workday.

I love how we come back to the same wisdom again and again (and again!!). As Tony Robbins says, repetition is the mother of skill; or, in our case, repetition is the mother of wise Optimizing.

(One more aside: I’m reminded of a recent philosophical ping-pong chat with Cal Newport. We talked about the fact that all great traditions come back to the same themes and I remarked that Optimizing by integrating ancient wisdom + modern science + practical tools like we do is kinda like looking at all the facets of a gem from different angles so you can appreciate its full beauty. 🤓 )

One more little facet of the Today’s gem then we’ll get back to our 4-Hour Workday.

We’ve talked a lot about Scott Adams and Stephen King. Alex talks about their daily rhythms and tells us: “Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, works about four hours a day on the strip and other writing; as he points out, ‘My value is based on my best ideas in any given day, not the number of hours I work.’ Stephen King describes four to six hours of reading and writing as a ‘strenuous’ day.”

There ya go.

Get clear on what matters. GO DEEP. Daily. Accrete value in your most important work. Recover. Deeply. Repeat.

That’s Today’s +1.

Now, go enjoy your 4-Hour Workday! 🤓

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