Can we learn from the computer game industry? I think so. Here is a fascinating article in pdf format from this gaming design website.

Most important points are:

  • 60 hour+ weeks deliver a brief increase in productivity but you need recovery time right after or productivity plummets.
  • When overwork becomes the norm, people think they’re more productive. They aren’t.
  • Knowledge workers should only work 35 hours/week.
  • One of the main proponents of the 40-hour work week was Kellogg’s. Not out of idealism but because it increased productivity for them.

Or as Psalm 127:2 puts it: It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.

  • Wesley

    Very current and helpful Dr. Murray. I wonder, are there seasons (weeks even) when extra time put in is just necessary (i.e. a member of the church dies mid week) but that we should always be seeking to return quickly to that middle ground of 35-40 hours?

    • David Murray

      That’s what I took from it too.

  • Matt

    What’s a knowledge worker?

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  • David S

    Doesn’t 35-40 seem like a pretty easy (lazy?) week? I’m a solo pastor of a small church (about 120 people) and find that I average about 50-55, sometimes 60. Over 60 has seemed like the danger zone in terms of impact on family, rest, exercise, etc. I guess what I’m saying is I can’t imagine getting all my work done (mostly the sermons, morning/evening) done in a 35 hour week. Sundays are 10 hours, leaving 25 hours the rest of the week. Or is that 35-40 hours separate from the pastor’s work on Sunday. David, any thoughts?

    PS — I am tremendously blessed by the podcasts. Thank you so much for all the great work!

    • David Murray

      I think it’s a good average for most people, David. Yes, God has blessed some with strong constitutions. However, even for the strongest there is eventually a toll taken on our physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health. Many have worked for years at 70+ hours a week (including pastors), but have died young or else their latter years have been blighted by really poor health. We’ve all got to find our limits, but we do tend to overestimate our capacities over the long run. Glad you’re enjoying the podcasts.

      • David S

        Thank you, David. It may be that God is prompting me to re-examine my work week habits in view of long-term spiritual & physical health. I think you are right that we tend to overestimate our capacities over the long run. Do you have any advice or favorite resources about thinking through the pastor’s weekly routines to make the best use of time? I understand if you are a little too busy to get into too much detail. Maybe a future podcast!

        • David Murray

          Great idea for a podcast. If you send me an email, I can send you a lecture on time management that I give in our Ministry course. Use the envelope icon at the top right beside my little photo.

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  • Jan Yager

    Thanks for sharing this information and the posts. For visitors who want to read my book entitled WORK LESS, DO MORE: The 14-Day Productivity Makeover (Hannacroix Creek Books, 2nd edition, 2012; first edition, Sterling publishing, 2008) here is the url for the Kindle version:

    It’s also available in trade paperback.

    This is my 4th book on time management. I’ve been researching, and speaking and coaching, on time management since the 1980s. As you’ll see in my book, working too long can actually reduce your productivity and those who continually work — what we call a “workaholic” — is often less productive than those who learn to pace themselves. I devote a day/chapter to WORK-LIFE BALANCE because that’s pivotal to working less and doing more.
    For more on my background and other writings, go to my main website:
    I’m working on a new book on time management and welcome hearing from those who want to share about their current productivity triumphs and challenges.

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