#238 The 4.5-Hour Workday

Science Says: It's the Magic Number for Greatness

Continuing our theme of making waves and riding them to greatness, let’s learn a little more about how Tony Schwartz applies this wisdom to his own life.

First, let’s go back to Anders Ericsson’s research. Remember our path to mastery and peak performance? It was paved with a ton of deliberate practice. (Over 10,000 hours for those keeping track.)

Well, going outside your comfort zone and doing the hard work required of deliberate practice en route to true mastery isn’t easy. It takes a ton of energy. And, the reality is, you can’t do that much of it in any given day.

In fact, Anders discovered that the best violinists in his study put in 4.5 hours of deliberate practice a day. That’s it.

(And, recall: They took more naps and slept more than the sub-elite performers. Hard work requires deep recovery!)


Tony used to try to work hard all day when he was writing a book—ignoring his ultradians and experiencing poorer performance as a result.

Then, he decided to write his next book in 90-minute chunks. Precisely 90 minutes. Not 85 minutes or 95 minutes. 90 minutes.

He’d focus DEEPLY for those 90 minutes. And then he’d recover DEEPLY for 15-20 minutes.

Then he’d repeat.

How many times? THREE.

For how many hours total? 4.5.

And guess what? He wrote his book in a fraction of the time it took him to write his prior books.

It’s funny because as I’ve been tinkering with my always-evolving Masterpiece Day, I arrived at the same number. Three Deep Work time blocks.

How about YOU?

Today’s +1. Imagine your Masterpiece Day. What’s your #1 WILDLY important goal? (That should always be driving everything you do work-wise, right?)

Now, picture three Deep Work time blocks. 90 minutes each.

Where do they fit? What do you do?

The 4.5-Hour Workday.

I like the sound of that.

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