Maximize Your Workday Productivity with the Rule of 4

There are eight hours in a typical workday.

Do not spend more than four of those hours in meetings.

Implementing this ‘Rule of 4’ means you will preserve four hours each day for your most important and meaningful work, not to mention actually having the time to take next steps from the meetings that you do attend.

Protecting four meeting-free hours each day also gives you the time to tackle unavoidable administrative tasks such as checking email and returning calls without the stress of your inbox getting out of control.

Four hours of focused work per day is ideal, according to Cal Newport, productivity expert and author of the bestselling business book Deep Work.

But he also notes that it takes time to train our brains to focus for four hours each day. Therefore, if you are just getting started with this process, blocking off a total of four hours will give you the opportunity to exercise your concentration muscles on deep and challenging work (perhaps 1–2 hours each day to start), while still having time for the smaller daily to-dos and other items that inevitably pop up.

It is an incredibly liberating exercise to look at your calendar and make hard choices so that you do not commit to more than four hours of meetings in a day. This forces you to prioritize the sessions that are critical to personally attend, while delegating or declining the rest. You will almost certainly find that you did not miss much from the meetings you skipped (especially if the meeting organizer can send a brief recap following the session).

Remember, this still means you are spending up to four hours each day in meetings, which is a significant amount of in-person time for your highest-priority sessions. And you’ll actually be able to pay attention and be present in those sessions, without feeling the need to sneak in a few emails.

Rescuing the other four hours is a game-changer. You’ll feel a sense of control over your schedule, and will actually have enough time to get your real work done. And with four hours each day to truly be productive, you likely won’t feel the need to work overtime, creating more balance in your life overall.

Spending your whole day bouncing between meetings makes for a busy day, but not a productive one. You’ll feel starved for time, with too many things to do and not enough time to do them.

Don’t do that to yourself.

As Tim Ferriss says, “Lack of time is a lack of priorities.”

Use the Rule of 4 to prioritize and take back your time.

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Andrew Merle writes about living well, including good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Subscribe to his e-mail list at and follow him on Twitter.

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