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The Four-Day Workweek Mindset

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By Patrick Patino

On a usual Friday morning, I am gearing up for an adventure with my wife and two-year-old son. We usually hit up a new coffee shop or bakery, and then take a hike in the forest or a long walk around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. One thing I am not doing on Fridays— working. Most Fridays, the only time I check my email is when I turn my out-of-office response on for the day. I turn my phone on “do not disturb” so that calls go straight to voicemail. Thursdays have become my Fridays because I have embraced the four-day work week. 

At the start of summer 2021, I made the decision to switch to a four-day work week as a sort of test run to see if I could make it a permanent change. I posted about this choice on LinkedIn and it was and still is the most popular post I have ever made on the platform. From launching my solo boutique bankruptcy practice on April 1, 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, to enduring a grueling year of living like a hermit with my family, I was pretty burned out. I needed a rest. I needed a break. I needed to change my routine. 

Rest is productive, which is counterintuitive to the mainstream way of thinking about taking a break from work. Attorneys are horrible at resting, and also with change. But I embrace being authentically different. I enjoy and thrive on change. It is what works for me, my practice, my family, and my life. The four-day work week aligned with my values of taking time for yourself so that you have more capacity to give to your clients. If you are running on empty, it is hard to be present and attentive to your client’s needs, which impairs the quality of your representation and the client’s experience with your firm. 

Reducing the workweek by one day was not as hard as I thought it would be. I already time block or map out my week and conduct weekly reviews of the next 90 days of my calendar. I set aside time on my calendar to get my work done. Eliminating Friday as a workday meant shifting time blocks to the other four days of the work week. I am a solo attorney, so this was an easy transition for me because I didn’t have to check in with anyone else or change a vast array of systems and procedures. 

However, I could see the four-day work week working for practices of all sizes. After all, we are really talking about time management. If you still need to hit that sweet spot of 40 hours, why not do four ten-hour days? Maybe you need to rethink how many meetings or check-ins you’re having during the week with your staff. Better yet, evaluate and find inefficiencies in your systems and eliminate them to free up time. The four-day work week is really an exercise in completing your work in the most efficient way possible while still providing high quality legal services to your clients. Instead of taking that freed up capacity to do more work, you take that time to do what you need to do for you. I call it being “positively selfish” where you choose to put yourself first for a positive personal gain. 

When I was reflecting on which day to eliminate, Friday was the obvious choice. I generally billed the fewest hours, sent the fewest emails, and made the fewest calls on Fridays. The change has made me more efficient because I don’t want to waste as much time Monday through Thursday that would jeopardize my Friday. I quip that not much happens on Fridays anyway, usually because everyone is so burned out by then no one really wants to get work done. How many times have you received an email after noon on Friday and let it sit there until Monday? I admit that I used to do that quite often. It is time to start accepting that working less may actually make you (dare I say it) more productive when you are working. This has been my experience. 

Alas, I wouldn’t be a good attorney if I didn’t worry a little bit, right? On Fridays, I sometimes suffer from FOMO, also known as the fear of missing out. What if I miss that email? What if I get an important phone call? What if a potential client is trying to email me? As attorneys, this fear is deeply embedded in us because we are taught early on in law school that this profession is a rat race. If you aren’t around, someone else is going to be eating your lunch and stealing your lunch money. However, my experience has been quite different. With clear messaging and expectation setting, clients and other attorneys know I will be unavailable on Fridays. My imposter syndrome can sink in sometimes and my negative self-talk kicks in. “You’re being lazy.” “You lack dedication.” Quite frankly I need that day off so that I can dial in the other days of the work week. Being an attorney is intense. Condensing down five workdays into four workdays is intense, but totally worth it. 

I must admit that sometimes I cheat. Like any good rule it can be bent (when absolutely necessary). Obviously, if there is a court hearing set for Friday, I attend. If something is extremely (and I mean extremely) time sensitive, then I will work on it a little on Friday. I really try to manage my time so that these items are addressed in advance. My father-in-law, who was my mentor and colleague for my first five years of practice, always set a goal of being two weeks ahead. This was a lofty goal, which was rarely met, but it set the tone to not let things sit until the last minute, an attribute that many attorneys fall prey to. With the four-day work week, you really can’t fall behind with your work. Otherwise, you will be working under the constant pressure of feeling like everything is an emergency.

For some, making this kind of change would be far too drastic. I suggest using the four-day work week mindset and applying it in small ways first. Stop working on the weekends for a month and see what that gets you. Leave work or stop working an hour early one day a week for a month. Close your office for a week during the holidays. Don’t work while you’re on vacation. Turn off email notifications on your phone or delete email access from your phone. Turn on your out-of-office reply when you need a little reprieve from work during the day. These are all ways to apply the four-day work week mindset, giving yourself an opportunity to take control of your time and to build capacity for yourself. 

Since adopting a four-day work week, I’ve moved my family from Nebraska to Minnesota, started a second law firm in Nebraska, launched my solo boutique bankruptcy practice in Minnesota, and started working on a new project to deliver flat-fee services to small businesses. I did all of this while running an existing law practice virtually during a pandemic. And I had fun while doing it. Not to mention I’ve gone on some really rad Friday adventures. The four-day work week works. It isn’t a fad. It isn’t going away. It is a perfectly all right alternative to the traditional five-day work week. I’ve been living it since June 4, 2021 and wouldn’t have it any other way going forward. 


Patrick-Patino-150Patrick Patino is the owner of Patino Law Office, a boutique bankruptcy law firm providing services in Nebraska and Minnesota. He graduated from University of Illinois College of Law in 2014. He can be reached at patrick@twincitiesBKlaw.com

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