In 2021 I moved to work a 4-day working week. Too many entrepreneurs go the other way and work a lot longer than the average 40-hour workweek, so in this episode, I want to share with you WHY I chose to move to 4-days a week and HOW I am managing to make it happen.
Why do so many entrepreneurs work such long working hours? But remember, we make the rules!
WHY did I decide to work a 4-day working week?
I have tried (and failed) this before, so what did I do differently this time?
A key tip is to have another project to focus on
Have clear boundaries with clients and get the right mindset
The importance of organisation (so you don’t end up working 4 x 10 hour days)
Use the 4Ds (Ditch, Delegate, Defer, Do it) to help prioritse your tasks
Keep meetings to 30 mins (which really focuses all the people in the meeting)
Learn to say NO
Communicate effectively to your team and your clients
Give your team the tools & training to effectively work a 4-day week (without working longer hours!)
Fill your 5th day with non work related tasks
Use these 3 questions to decide if a shorter week is right for you
The benefits I have found from working a 4-day week
“It’s vital you know what you are going to do on the day you are not working.” - Rob Da Costa
“Being super organised is vital as it knowing the things you need to let go of.” - Rob Da Costa
“When you say YES to something you are saying NO to something else.” - Rob Da Costa
Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts
"I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode." If that sounds like you, please consider the rating and review my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.
Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select "Write a Review." Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!
Also, if you haven't done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I'm adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you're not subscribed, there's a good chance you'll miss out. Subscribe now!
I've been thinking about moving to a four-day week for quite a long time. Too many entrepreneurs go the other way. They work really long hours and they work maybe five, six or seven days a week,12 hour days. I've done that in the past, and it's not big and clever. Then, I wanted to move to a four-day working week, and I've managed to do that in 2021. In this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I wanted to share with you exactly why I did it and what I did to make it finally works. So, let's get on with the show.
I'm Rob Da Costa, and this is The Agency Accelerator Podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started growing and had sold my own agency, I know just how it feels during the ups and the downs of agency life. So, this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing my own and my guest experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business.
Hey everybody, welcome to this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I hope you find this episode really useful or maybe insightful. Perhaps, it's something that you are aspiring to do at some point in the future. I want to share with you how in 2021 I moved to a four-day working week and how I finally, after several failed attempts, made it to work. I want to talk about why I did it and then specifically what I did to make it work. Also, what are the benefits that I'm seeing as I come out the other side?
As I said in the introduction, too many entrepreneurs work really long hours. They work six or seven days a week to get everything done because perhaps they have no other way of working. They don't know any other way. Perhaps they feel like they have no one to delegate to, so they've got to work that long to keep things ticking over. Now, this is not sustainable, and ultimately it will lead to burnout.
You might have been there. I've certainly been there myself, but we need to remember that as an entrepreneur and business owners, we are actually in control of our own destiny and that we make the rules. The rule I wanted to make this year was to move down to four days a week without seeing a drop in my revenues or a drop in the number of clients I could service, or indeed in the quality of my work and the marketing output. Then, I set about making that happen.
As I said, I've tried several times in the past. I have this sort of wish of working four days a week, but it quickly disappeared as clients asked to talk to me on that fifth day or had emails coming in that. I thought, I just answer them. To make it happen this time, finally, there are some things that I had to do that's why I want to talk about today. I need to get very efficient, and I also needed to be motivated to actually start and stick with that four-day working week. Then, let's kick off with why. Why is it that I decided I wanted to work a four-day week? I appreciate you will have very different reasons. Like anything, we need to start with the why.
First of all, like many of us, I wanted a better work-life balance. I wanted better boundaries of when I'm working and when I'm not working. At the age of 57 giving my age away, I also wanted to start thinking about succession planning over the next four or five years.
I know full well from working with lots of agency owners who want to sell their agency that they need to get very clear on what's next before they've sold. Then for me, to have good succession as I head towards some kind of easing down and retirement, I needed to have a plan of what I was going to do, and having this fifth day has really helped me with that.
Now, as I said, I've tried this in the past. I've had this sort of new year's resolution of thinking that I'm going to work four days a week. Then it's really easy just to get sucked back in because you can't help but check your emails on that fifth day. When that client says, “Can I do a session with you?”, on that day. Of course, you will say yes because you never want to say no. Then, before you know it, that fifth day has gone out the window.
There are some things this time that I needed to have in place to make it happen. I think the number one thing is that I had a project that I wanted to work on that fifth day. It wasn't just simply a case of me saying I want to put my feet up on Friday, which happens to be the day that I don't work in Da Costa Coaching now, but I actually had another project.
I've talked a bit about this in the past. I’m a campervan owner, and I decided that I wanted to document my experiences of owning a campervan; the good, the bad and the ugly. As well as blogging some of the journeys that we make. Doing some reviews of products, vans and so on.
Then, I launched on the road again, which is a website where we sell some stuff, we do blog and post our videos. Also, a YouTube channel on the road again. That's the UK, where we post our weekly videos now. I don't know if you do any videotaping yourself, but a video typically can take an hour per minute of videoing or maybe 30 minutes per minute of videoing. If you're editing a 15-minute video, it can certainly take me all day. That's what I want to have my fifth day for because I knew I was going to make this work and focus on growing my YouTube channel properly.
Then, I needed to have some decent quality videos. If I didn't have that fifth day to do, it would end up being my weekends or working into the evening. When you're tired, you're never going to do your best work. I think one of the really clear things that got me to this four-day working week is knowing that on the fifth day I was going to work on this project.
I'm actually working five days a week. It's just on that fifth day, I'm doing something else now. I think that has been the key driver for this being successful. Just to give you some context, I've been working four day weeks for the past six months. I think that's the first thing.
The second thing was being absolutely determined to have really clear boundaries with my Da Costa Coaching work and my clients, saying “No, I'm not available on Friday.” I had to move a few clients who would typically see me on a Friday and move them to another day then, just say that day is no longer available. I really had to change my mindset around this, moving from “Oh my God, if I say no, they won't like me and leave me.” to simply say no, like, I respect myself from that Friday isn't available, but these are the other available times.
Then, I think having good boundaries in keeping that Friday clear has also really helped. Of course, I've communicated this with my clients. I've explained why I'm doing it so that they understand and hopefully respect that boundary as well. Then, that's why I've done it and some of the things that I started to do to make sure it happens.
Let's dig a little bit more into what actually getting me to the four-day week. It goes without saying, really, that to achieve a four-day working week, you have to become super organised. Since, there's a danger that when you say you're working a four-day week, all you end up doing is working for 10 hours a day instead of five to eight hours a day. I'm not quite sure that the math adds up there, but you know what I mean?
Then, it's not a case of just working longer days. In fact, I'm determined to keep my days to eight hours as they normally are, actually, to get very efficient. One of the things that I do religiously now, I want you to do this because I've talked about this before, I really use the four Ds in all of the decision makings.
When I've got a task, can I ditch it? Can I defer it to a later date? Can I delegate it to my VA team? Or, do I have to do it now? I try to use that four Ds methodology against everything that I do, so I can quickly assess whether I really need to do this now, whether I need to do it all or whether I can schedule it for a later date.
I think being super organised is really important. Focusing on the things that going to move me forward. Then, letting go of some of the things that perhaps I've done in the past just because I've done them, but actually when you look at the numbers, they're not really delivering enough value, so I need to stop doing them. That becomes the default ditch it.
The other thing that I'm trying to do is keep meetings short. Not my client coaching sessions, because obviously, they need to be as long as they are, but certainly, other meetings that I do, I try to keep them to half an hour rather than an hour. I think it's really interesting that when you have a shorter time to do something, whether it be half an hour for a meeting or four days in your working week, you get really focused, really organised and you get to the point quicker and you focus on the things that matter.
I think it's a bit like if you're going on a holiday. That week leading up to your holiday. You're very frantic, but you're also very focused and very efficient because you know you have to get these things off your plate before you can go on vacation. Kind of working a four-day week is a bit similar to that. It can feel quite kind of not caring if I'm honest because I am being efficient and I know I've still got the same volume of work to do. I'm just trying to be more efficient about how and when I do that work so.
That is another tip, which is to keep meetings to half an hour, if you possibly can, rather than an hour. Another thing that I've had to do is say no, a lot more to things. I really love this that I've shared with you guys before, which is when you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else.
Then, I now really think carefully. Do I really want to say yes to this? Or, can I say no more often because this thing that I'm saying yes to doesn't benefit me, my clients or my partners, then why would I be doing it? I'm trying to be a bit smarter about that and say no more often.
Now, the next thing that you need to do if you want to make this work, is you need to communicate with your team and your clients. As I said, I let all my clients know what I was doing. I didn't paint it like, “Okay, guys, I'm putting my feet up and all the rest of it.” I just said that this is when I'm available to work with you from now on.
Also, I have a VA team that I work with. I make sure that they understood that I don't work on a Friday. They still work on Friday. That's two benefits to that. First, I can still continue putting output on a Friday, but it's just not me doing it. But second of all, they need to understand that, actually, I'm not available on a Friday. On rare occasions they really do need to contact me, I will be contactable, but they know as a rule of thumb, make sure you've asked me everything you need on Thursday or can it be safe to the Monday.
Then, you need to make sure you communicate with your wider team. Whether that be the team that worked with you, a virtual assistant team or a remote working team. Whatever it is, make sure that they understand. Now, of course, they may be working a four-day week with you with that part of your team. But if they're not, if they're like my VA team and they're still working five days a week, make sure that they understand that and they respect your boundaries.
Now, as I said, you need to be mindful that working a four-day week can be stressful because, fundamentally, you've got the same volume of work to do in less time. Then, not everybody in your team is necessarily going to be delighted about a four-day week. You need to make sure that you give them the tools and the training to make sure that they can work a four-day week and they don't just end up working on the fifth day in secret or longer working on days one, two, three and four.
I think the other really key thing to this, as I've already explained for myself, is that you need to fill your fifth day with things that you're going to do. There could be another project like I work on, or it could simply be that you have a set of chores that you want to do on your fifth day and that you make them do. Because if you come to your fifth day and you have nothing to do, I guarantee you that you will sit at your desk and just check your emails. Then before you know it, you'll be back working your fifth day. Make sure you're filling your fifth day with stuff that will keep you occupied. That will enable you to do your four-day working week.
Just to kind of sum this really short podcast up. If you're thinking about the idea of a four-day working week and I already know that a number of my clients work in a four day week. I want you to ask yourself these three questions. I want you to write these down and put them somewhere that you can refer back to regularly.
Question number one is to consider, how will you professionally benefit from a four-day working week? Write down the reasons. It might be the fact that you can use your fifth day for other training. It might be that is going to give you some breathing space. It's going to help you recuperate and give your best on those four days. But whatever the reasons, write down how you will professionally benefit from working a four-day week. That's question number one.
This is question number two. How will it personally benefit you from working a four-day week? Again, write this down. It might be that you have another interest that you want to pursue. You may want to take a yoga class on that fifth day, go to the gym, walk or do whatever you're gonna do. How will it personally benefit you to work a four-day week?
The last question I want you to write down is, what does it mean if you don't make a four-day working week happen? What would the consequences be? If you try this and it fails, what does that mean to you? If that is emotionally strong enough, it's going to be part of the focus that will help you hit your four-day working week target.
Write those three questions down. Put them somewhere that you can regularly review and use them to help you stay in the right mindset and physically do a four-day working week. Okay, so that's a really short episode of The Agency Accelerator from me but I just wanted to share with you how I've managed to make a four-day working week happen.
Why I've done it and how I can keep doing it. Maybe there are some nuggets in there that will help you. Even if you don't want to work a four-day week, there are things in there that will help you get more efficient with the time that you are working. Don't be that typical entrepreneur who just works really long hours because you can and you think you have to because trust me that you don't.
I think I am more efficient. I think I provide a great level of quality. I don't think my quality has dropped since I've gone on a four-day working week. Also, I certainly feel re-energised on a Monday when I come back in having had three days away from the business. Then, I think there are lots of benefits to doing this. I'm not telling you that everyone should do it but there are some ideas and concepts that you can apply to your week to make you very efficient. Basically, get more done in less time.
Then, I hope you found that useful. As ever, please make sure that you've hit the subscribe button. I would love you to leave a review if you're listening to this on apple podcasts. Of course, please do share the episode with your colleagues. The more people who listen or subscribe to the YouTube channel, the more people the podcast or video will be shown to, which helps me help more people just like you. But other than that, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your week and I will see you next week on the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.