Work smarter, not harder.

It’s a credo we’ve probably all heard before, one of those philosophies that sounds good on the surface but isn’t so easy to put into practice. If there was an obvious way to make work easier, wouldn’t you already be doing it? For people like me who are interested in time management, the quest to work more productively is ongoing.

If only you lived in New Zealand and worked at financial firm Perpetual Guardian, you’d be doing exactly that – working smarter but not harder. The company ran a test program last year in which employees shifted from a five-day, 37.5-hour work week to a four-day, 30-hour week without any pay cut. (This all sounds like a fairy tale to American workers, I know.) The initial results were so promising that in November of last year the company made it a permanent change.

This month the company released a study of the initial pilot program. It compared results of a recent survey of Perpetual Guardian’s 240 employees to a survey the employees completed in 2017, before the four-day switch was made.

The later survey of these 240 employees found that:

  • staff stress levels were lower
  • engagement levels were higher and
  • employees had better work/life balance after the transition.

That’s unsurprising; wouldn’t you be less stressed if you had more time off? But the piece that really grabs me is that the company’s founder says there’s been no productivity drop-off, even though employees are now working nearly eight fewer hours per week than they were before.

I’m interested in this idea, and not just because I’m passionate about time management. For me, the success of this trial connects with the importance of prioritizing and developing a schedule and system that works specifically for you.

Think about it: 240 employees all cut 7.5 hours of their work weeks, but didn’t drop their productivity. To do that, they all would have had to stop doing certain tasks and make changes to the way they structured their days. They have different jobs and to-do lists, but each one found a unique way to adapt to this schedule.

I haven’t talked to any of those employees myself, although I’ll volunteer for a business trip to New Zealand anytime. But if the company’s data is true and productivity really is holding steady, it goes to show that making a radical change to the way you approach your to-do list is really possible if the incentive is strong enough. In the case of Perpetual Guardian, employees knew that they had to be very productive during those 30 hours if they wanted the four-day schedule to last.

What’s your incentive to make real, lasting change to your time management system?

Maybe you’re looking for more free time to commit to a side business, or you’re craving the mental health boost that you’d get from decreasing your stress level. Unless your employer is considering following Perpetual Guardian’s lead (given that’s it’s 2019 in America, that seems… unlikely), the external incentive of a shorter work week isn’t an option.

So how can you “make” yourself be more productive? I propose making some radical changes to the way you approach time management, which includes making sure you are doing the right activities at the right time so you can contain your work and create that work-life blend that works for you. Forcing yourself to buckle down and grind out your tasks just isn’t an effective way to get more done in less time. You’re going to need to build a new system from the ground up, one that’s designed to support your needs alone.

If you need help getting started, I hope you’ll consider joining my upcoming Jump Start Your Productivity teleseminar. During this five-week program, you’ll be able to attend weekly teleclasses, participate in live Q&A sessions and design your own flexible template that will allow you to really take control of the way you approach time management. We kick off on March 8th, so register now to save your spot. I’m also offering some limited-time bonuses and payment options, but don’t delay – they’re only available until March 2nd.

I’m so excited to teach this program live! In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of New Zealand….



Sarah Reiff-Hekking