When I first started Elle Fit Active, a particular book was rather alluring - The 4 Hour Work Week. There is a lot of buzz around leaving the 9-5 to run your own show, and for the past 5 years I have vouched for it too - with more emphasis on having the flexibility to control my own schedule rather than having to adhere to someone else's.

But very recently my mind did something I was extremely proud of. It solved a mathematical equation. Maths is not my forte so this truly felt like an explosion of congratulatory fireworks (🎉 more so the party popper emoji). A few concepts had planted themselves in separate corners of my memory and on this day it felt as though a number of tiny wires carrying a buzz of electricity met in the centre of my brain to turn on one huge light bulb.

9-5 and 5-9 are MAGIC numbers.


Each day we have 24hrs.

8hrs to sleep. 8hrs to work. 8hrs for everything else.

8 x 3 = 24. Perfect thirds.

Thanks to my friend Jamie for sharing this concept with me.

In order to create boundaries with work, I decided to start a somewhat strict Monday to Friday, 9-5 work schedule. The strict part being NO work on weekends. The somewhat flexible side has been starting work earlier because my mind is buzzing from 5:30am and some days finishing at 6pm because I am still powering through my to-do list. But that's my "8hrs" of work.

After reading Why We Sleep and learning that the recycle rate of a human is roughly 16 hours, I realised that this 9-5 schedule fitted in perfectly with the other two thirds of my 24 hour period.

A recycle rate is how long we can be awake before we start deteriorating mentally and physically. 24hrs - 16hrs = 8hrs. And that's where our 8hrs of sleep comes into play. 16 hours of wakefulness. 8 hours of sleep.

So, if I was working from 9am to 5pm (8hrs) and wanting to sleep from 9pm to 5am (8hrs) that meant I had two 4 hour periods left in my day. 5am to 9am (4hrs in the morning) and 5pm to 9pm (4 hours in the evening).

BOOM 9 - 5 and 5 - 9 are MAGIC.

This has helped me SO much, hence the reason I am sharing it with you.

It has helped me focus my attention in every area.

4 hours every morning for me. That's HALF a normal work day. If my body wants to sleep a little longer and wake up at 5:30 or 6 then that means my morning block is reduced and that's completely fine. This is a time where I read and/or write, go to the gym and have breakfast.

If I wake up and I'm overflowing with inspiration, I start work straight away and channel that enthusiasm whilst it's hot. All whilst knowing that THIS is exactly what I want to be doing in my 'me time'. When it comes to separating myself from my work there isn't such a thing. But I do acknowledge these earlier start times and shift the 8hr work period accordingly for these days, resulting in an earlier finish and a greater 'me' time block at the end of the day.

On a usual day, after having the hours until 9am to myself, the next 8 hours is my SWITCH ON time. A clear structure of what I am working on with no distractions. I no longer allow notifications or the addictive vortex that our phones can be to take me away from my work. My phone goes onto flight mode and into my desk drawer. I take a small break for lunch and get back to it.

When 5pm hits, I close my laptop and transition to my SWITCH OFF period. Exercise is already out of the way, so all that is left is a chance to wind down, eat dinner, tidy up and leave my surroundings fresh and clean for a new day ahead.

I have been working on a 'no screens after 8pm' rule so this is when I will start reading or journalling. Whilst I do strive for consistency, I allow breathing space for these new habits because every day is different... and Emma and I might be slightly obsessed with Sex and the City at the moment... In saying that, this 8pm rule has been vital for my 8hr allocation of sleep each night. If my brain is too stimulated after 8pm the window of potential sleep is reduced. Especially when my body clock is used to waking between 5 and 5:30am. Thought: I might start lighting a candle as a reminder to not burn it from both ends.

If you'd like to know more about my sleep, there is plenty more of that over on Get Sleepy.

What are your magic numbers?

How can you squeeze in everything you need?

NOTE: Cutting into your 8hr slot for sleep is not an option. And SLEEPING less than 7.5hrs each night is a no go zone. The reason I am shouting SLEEP, is because that is hours asleep. You need to be in bed longer than that to account for the time it takes to actually drift off to sleep.

I hope this concept can help you too!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Elle :)


  • Flo

    Hi Elle,
    I love this idea, and think having a dedicated time for work with no distractions is such a good thing! As a student, it can be hard to balance work and life, so hopefully following a similar routine can help me (and others) to find that balance a little easier!

    However, I have scheduled lessons and lectures from 9-5 most days, so when do I fit in completing assignments without completely losing my ‘me time’, or do I have to use this ‘me-time’ to work on university work anyway? And what about travelling to and from work / university? Would this count as me-time?

  • Mel

    Hi Elle,

    Something prompted me (in the middle of my allocated work hours – oops) to open this blog and read on – I love this way of thinking and whilst its not ideal for me in that I have to fit the school day into that time, I will take on board the hours as a general rule and work around that. I love the idea of switching off at 8pm (something I need to lean into much more)
    Allowing myself the 8 hours of me time sounds so crazy but I love it!

    I have been really getting into the 5am club and miracle morning books so this will align nicely with that – thanks for the fantastic read x

  • Taiyo

    Thank You so so much! I have recently also started to wake up around 5, before the sunrise and allowing some ME time before I step into the business of the day…but did not realise 9-5 and 5-9 were actual magic numbers! Thanks for sharing your awareness, Elle!

  • Dannielle Faithfull

    So helpful. I’m in the midst of rearranging my personal schedule currently, particularly trying to prioritise a morning and nighttime routine. One major thing I am learning is the importance of scheduling personal things like you would work related things. I’ve always been more spontaneous (or disorganised) with time spent with friends, time spent creating, time spent practicing self care, etc. and I am realising now that that approach has resulted in a lot of wasted time as well as missed opportunities for personal growth. This 9-5 5-9 idea might just help me to structure my time that little bit more, I love it.

  • Steph

    Honestly this is a great way to look at things but this actually explains why my days feel shorter and shorter (something I couldn’t wrap my mind around). Commute to and from work really digs into my personal time. It’s a whopping 2+ hours a day. Then if you consider breakfast and dinner, that is at least 30 minutes each (assuming you did a weekly meal prep or ate some cereal). And amen to working college students. Ultimately, I am paving a way to a dull life. With approximately two 2.5 hour periods of free time. I guess this is why some of us live: to just exist and function in society.

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