Do we really only work 40 days a year?

How many days do we actually work?

How many days do we actually work?

In Canada, we have just emerged from a Thanksgiving long weekend. Halloween and Christmas loom large for us, and US Thanksgiving is merely weeks away. With all of these special days in mind, it’s a good time to revisit the concept of Cool Time Day that I proposed a few years back. Cool-Time Day is based on a premise similar to “Tax-Freedom Day,” the mythical date on a calendar when you have finally made enough money to pay your annual taxes, and everything else you make until the end of the year supposedly goes to you.

In this regard, Cool-Time Day is intended to symbolize the true number of hours of productive work available to us within the course of a year. Its mandate is not to say “work harder,” but “work better;” to use this symbolism as currency when introducing Time Management techniques to the people in your world.(Sure, statistics can be made to prove anything, but I think this makes for an eye-opening assessment.)

It works like this:

  • Start with 365 days in a year.  365.
  • Subtract 104 days for weekends: 365–104= 261
  • Subtract 9 days for personal days and sick days: 261–9=252
  • Subtract 10 public holidays: 252–10= 242
  • Subtract time lost due to the “weekend effect,” (42 Fridays per year in which 20% of productivity is lost as people start to focus on the weekend, and the 42 Mondays in which people struggle to get back into gear): 84 daysx20% = 17 days: 242–17= 225
  • Subtract the “long weekend effect,” the 10 Friday afternoons before the long weekend and the 10 Monday mornings after the long weekend in which people work to 50% capacity for the same reasons as regular weekends but moreso: 10 days x 50% = 5 days lost: 225–5= 220
  • Subtract the “Christmas effect,” the 10 days before and after the Christmas holiday in which 20 percent of productivity is lost: 20 days x 20% = 4 days lost: 220–4= 216
  • Then if you accept that only 25% of any workday day is available for “real focused work,” the rest being consumed by meetings, phone calls, emails, etc., 216×25%= 54
  • Finally, factor in sleep deprivation, which increases over the course of  the workweek. The decline in performance due to sleep-debt, headaches, fatigue, etc., means people work to 75% of their true capacity, even when they think they are at their best. 54×75%= 40

So there you have it.

This amounts to 40 days of work per year. Is this reflective of your working environment? Take a moment to think about it. Your results might vary slightly from these numbers, but all the elements listed above touch us all in some way. More importantly, this listing serves to underline just how precious true productivity is, and how hard it is to see this when we’re in the thick of it. Most importantly of all, Cool-Time day does not stand for futility or frustration. It stands instead as an opportunity to view the concepts of “achievement” and “work” from a higher-level, with the intent being for all of us to recognize just how much valuable time slips through our fingers. Once we acknowledge this, it makes it easier to convince ourselves, and our colleagues, managers and clients, of the value of intelligent use of time.


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