Do you ever feel like no matter how many hours you work, there’s always more to do? It’s very true for many of us. I’ve worked 70 or 80 hour weeks before, and felt like I still have more to do, the same feeling I get when I work only 40 hours.
Part of this is because we always have low importance items on our ‘to do’ lists. Another part is that we, and particularly entrepreneurial types who freelance or own our own businesses, like to be kept busy all the time.
The problem with that, is when you are working 60 hours every week, much of your time may not be as productive as it could be – you may be tired, there’s too many tasks in the air, or you are distracted with other pressures. If you take a look at any one of those sixty hours, you probably weren’t as productive as you would have been if you had only worked 40 hours that week.
I’m currently enjoying the fourth week of four day weeks in a row. In Australia, we’ve just had three public holidays over three weeks, and the other week I took a day off. Did the world stop spinning because I was at the office less? No. Did the amount of work I had to do in less time increase? Yes.
In fact, I’d go to the point of saying that the 35 or so hours I did in the other days were more valuable, because I had to make more decisions about what to do, and what not to do. I still managed to complete all the very important parts of my role, and crossed off all the less important yet still needed tasks too. Sure, I didn’t get around to all of the low priority items; however I can delegate a number of these to others, or just not do them.
I remember reading about Parkinson’s Law a few years ago. In 1955, Cyril Parkinson started an essay he wrote for The Economist which begins ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ Wow, he must have known the Internet and other technological interruptions were on their way!
Now, I’m not suggesting you should immediately reduce your hours to four days per week, however, I am suggesting you find ways to reduce your hours. It could be that you work a number of hours more than you probably need to. Start by reducing your week by a few hours, and see what the effect is. Those of you who freelance will probably find this actually easier than those of us with employees or bosses to consider.
If you’re still not convinced, consider 37signals. They went from being a small web team working on client projects, to being a very profitable and well known web software company through working part time on their projects. The founders often speak of working part time to do meaningful work. Embrace Constraints, an article from their book, Getting Real, covers this well.
So here’s my challenge to you for the next week. Set yourself three hours to do that task that usually took you four. At the end of three hours, stop and assess. Is the result from your three hours of efforts still good enough? Maybe instead of four hours, it’s that important one hour task that you can resolve to complete in 40 minutes, or perhaps squeeze an entire day down to just six hours. The point is, if we reduce the available hours we have for a task, amazingly the majority of the time it will still get done.
Imagine doing that to a number of tasks each week – you get more work done in less time, meaning more profits for less effort. You’ll be more focused, you’ll certainly be better at determining the importance of tasks and you’ll have more time to enjoy life away from your desk. Sound good? Take the challenge, and let me know how it went.
Your timer starts now – good luck!
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