Why not plan to operate dramatically under capacity?

If you’ve been responsible for running a company then you’ll be aware that it is impossible to keep everyone 100% productive, as in working productively every hour of every day. It’s just not wise to try. Most people would suggest you should also plan to leave some percentage of your “capacity” unallocated or free for the unknown.

To run at 80% capacity, assuming a 5 day work week, means you shouldn’t plan to do anything for one of the days during the week. Leaving 20% “unallocated” freaks out many people. Especially people that focus on 100%+ allocation.

What I don’t understand is why people only recommend shaving off 20%? Why not ONLY allocate 20%, or 1 day of 5. Leave five days open. By that I don’t mean you plan to do nothing for four days of the week, but instead to only need to work one day of the week to make a profit or at least break even. Then use the extra four days as you see fit. Perhaps build up reserve profits by producing more. Perhaps invest time in future productivity, future products and services.

And over time, shouldn’t the goal of any business be to push this minimum amount–of effort necessary to break even–lower and lower? That would be a sign of creating greater and greater value for others and yourself.

Perhaps the one day a week is misleading too, perhaps it would be better to express this one day of effort per week as four days per month, or twelve days per quarter. Whatever time period best fits the amount of contiguous effort you need to produce a result that shows at least a marginal profit. No need to worry about hitting a weekly profit quota if a quarterly quota is more appropriate.

How can you make yourself profitable–and those around you–in the first 20% instead of allocating 80% or 100%+ of your time to this goal?