Isn’t it amazing how much you can achieve in the days before going on holiday? With a firm deadline looming and a strong desire to get things under control, I know I can make decisions fast, work like a demon to finish off those thousand things that have been sitting around for weeks, and leave the business in better shape that it’s been in months. It’s times like these that I can get much more done in less time.
It’s also true for those days where I’ve had commitments which have forced me to get everything done before a certain time.
A while back I had a kind of revelation…
“More hours does not equal better outcomes.”
Yes, it’s plainly obvious when you read it like that, but deep down, I really believed that the key to better results, was working harder. Fortunately that’s not entirely true.
How many of us grind away, putting in more and more hours and expecting that to deliver the best results? I’d guess most of us.
I also realised that my strong work ethic, while an asset at times, also gives away an underlying belief – that the only way to get results is through hard work. And the harder I work, the better things will be… NOT TRUE!
“The key to better results is actually better work.”
In fact, this is somewhat of a limiting belief… because in fact, the RIGHT WORK is what delivers results. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be hard.
You set the rules, so choose your own hours
Where did the idea of 9 to 5 as a baseline come from anyway? It’s a cultural norm for society and for entrepreneurs, that’s usually just the starting point. Everyone seems to agree that if you want to get something off the ground and growing, you’ll have to work a LOT more than that! But is it really true?
This company recently cut it’s work hours to 5 hours a day (a 30% reduction) and as a result, grew their revenues by 40%! They also reset expectations about the quality and quantity of outputs required from their team – and they somehow rose to the challenge. (Can you imagine faffing about if you had only 5 hours to get all your work done? Of course not!)
This week I also heard a podcast about a woman who simultaneously set the goal to increase the profits of her coaching business while also reducing the number of days she worked with clients – and she smashed it!
And now Sweden has officially introduced a 6 hour working day (with the same salaries they were previously making working 8 hour days). They recently conducted a controlled test using nurses in a retirement home and found real benefits for staff, productivity and patients. This test, combined with other studies has convinced the Swedes that: productivity can increase with fewer hours worked. So yes, people can get more done in less time – such a revolutionary thought!
What would happen if you worked less hours?
Having a goal to grow your business is important, but it’s also important to put constraints on your time. Without these you’ll end up working too many hours and hating your business.
So could you get more done in less time? Try one of these approaches for a week or two;
- Keep one day a week free of meetings and client appointments so that you can do your planning and admin work (instead of the weekend)
- Schedule a set finishing time for at least 2 nights a week. Book in a gym class, appointment with a friend, or something else to force you to meet it
- Ban yourself from using your laptop after dinner
- Put a limit on the number of hours you work a day
- Limit the number of days you work per week
- Schedule a 3 day weekend twice a month
- Go to gym or take a run first thing in the morning and therefore shorten your working day
Try something radical and see if it affects your productivity.
Four good hours a day
A very successful person I know once told me that he believes there are only 4 good working hours a day. If you think about it, does that ring true for you? How much of your time were you really adding value for customers or doing something to build the business?
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the cofounders of 37 Signals – a very successful business known for taking a different approach to things. In their book Rework, they describe the flawed mindset of people who “try to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at them…. This results in inelegant solutions.” Workaholics “aren’t heroes,” they write. “They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.”
If you can spend just a few hours each day doing something that will actually move the needle, you’ll be so much further ahead than if you work around the clock on things that are less important.
Remember… it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And what matters is doing the right work. So that means getting something important done each day – but not trying to do everything everyday.