The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here November 2017

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Found Most Interesting
The Author's Case for a Five-day Workweek | The Author's Vision Now and Into the Future


This book is about getting things done, but much more, and it is particularly relevant to project work. But it is different from the books I typically review and so my approach needs to be different accordingly. As a project manager I know the purpose of most books on project management — and that is how to achieve success.[1] So my review approach is to study such books to see how they help to get there. However, this book really is different, it's about a game changer of an idea and consequently the book's outcome is not at all clear, at least to me, initially.

On the face of it, history supports the conclusion of a progressive reduction in the number of hours employees have worked in a day. In pre-industrial revolution days, it was working all day to the tune of 16 hours or around 90 hours a week. At the beginning of industrialization, hours employed were around 60+ hours a week.

On my first construction site job as a site surveyor, the job site worked 8 hours a day, 7 days a week and we were expected to work 9 to 5, 6-½ days a week with occasional overtime for three weeks in a row. We then got three days off. That averaged out at around 50 hours a week. The construction workers probably clocked about the same amount of time.

Subsequently, in an office job,[2] I was employed at 40 hours a week, which dropped to an expected 37.5 hours a week when Saturday working was eliminated, but with other days adjusted upwards to suit. How the hours were paid for is a different issue. Management and staff were paid for on a flat monthly salary, so the number of hours "worked" varied widely, so long as physical presence at the office was not less than the prescribed number. Towards my retirement, I negotiated a shorter day so that I had time for more necessary daily exercise, but at a correspondingly lower salary.

Field workers were paid by the hour, and claimed overtime pay in excess of the prescribed number. That's how field workers, trades people and so on, became effectively paid substantially more than office workers. Once upon a time it was a privilege, honor and benefit to be promoted to "management", but not any more — to the extent that many dedicated, and smart, workers refused such an offer. After all, when their day is done, their work is done, whereas for managers, their day is done only when their work is done.

It may be argued that brawn work is harder than brainwork and therefore should be paid more, especially with overtime hours. Yet, in large cities, many office workers add significant "unofficial" time to their workday, through the time they take to get to, and from, their place of work. This can be as much as an hour each way or even more. Add that to a 35-hour work week and you are effectively back to a 45-hour workweek.

Nevertheless, the picture I have drawn clearly shows a general trend downwards in the amount of time spent, or at least paid for, at work. But in these days of rapid technology advancement, it is in the right sort of brainwork where the money is being made. I recount all of this as background to author Stephan Aarstol's book wherein he proposes The Five Hour Workday[3] [with a view to] Live differently, unlock productivity, and find happiness.[4]

Really? A five-hour workday? Is that even possible?[5]

Stephan sets out to extol the virtues of such a move, promotes the idea, explains what is involved, and demonstrates, in his own company that he started from scratch, how successfully it can be done. For whom might this apply? Well, that's an issue that is gradually answered through the book, but Stephan is no doubt convinced that it will become the norm at some time in the future. And, he concludes, that we'll all be the happier for it.

About the author

Stephan Aarstol is the CEO and Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, an online, manufacture-direct brand in the stand up paddle boarding industry. The company has been listed in the 2015 Inc. 500 List of America's Fastest Growing Companies. While Tower began as a disruptive, direct-to-consumer stand up paddle board company, it has since evolved into a more holistic beach lifestyle company offering a growing array of beach lifestyle products, sold and shipped directly to consumers.[6] Based in San Diego, he and his company are in the right place on the west coast for promoting such products, given the climate in that part of the USA. Nevertheless, they ship their products all over the world.


1. In whatever way the idea of "success" is defined, or implied, by the particular author.
2. With a consulting company
3. At full pay or better
4. Aarstol, Stephan, author of The Five Hour Workday, Lioncrest Publishing, USA. In Chapter 4, Author Stephan Aarstoll also describes How we're working today, but from a different perspective
5. Another author promotes going even further! See Tim Ferriss's book: The Four Hour Workweek
6. Aarstoll, pp267-268
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