Friday, 1 August 2014

Work Less, Achieve More

We are endlessly told that hard work creates more profit. Work harder to create more profit in your new business. Does more work really mean more profit? Do we have to put in ludicrously long hours to be successful?

We have been brought up to believe that working more equates to being more successful. More input equates to more output. Well, I am not sure I agree. I think the logic (and many of the assumptions behind it) is flawed.

Sure, if you are a one-person-business, charging per unit of time, then more units equals more money. But most businesses try to grow by employing people to spread the workload. Or, maybe you should simply charge more per unit of time!

For those of us who are not charging by the hour, then I would argue that it may well be more profitable to work less. I repeat… to work less. Less hours… less stress… less banging your head against a brick wall.

I shall be more specific.

Jim currently works 5 days a week. In effect, he contributes 20% of a week's value on each working day. He admits that if he only worked four days a week (ie took Fridays off), then he could easily do “25% days”. In other words, with a Friday off he could and would work more productively on the other four work days.

But the maths deceives us of the real benefits of the extra day off.

If Jim spends Fridays doing whatever it is that he wants to (gardening, household/DIY chores, playing guitar, walking the dogs) then he will spend much of that time ruminating and reflecting on the days that he does work. Consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously, he will be thinking about what he does on the working days. And this is where things get interesting.

With a bit of space from the work environment, Jim returns on a Monday with a new zest and vigour. But that is not all.

While Jim spends his Fridays doing his own thing, he will come up with great ideas for the business. So, he comes back to work refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to go. Except now he has a freshness and an intensity about himself. He has more focus. More focus on what is required.

FACT: You never come up with great light-bulb moments when sat in front of the computer.
MORAL: Spend time away from the computer.
ACTION: To help your business, book more days off! 

To be more effective you need to work less. My challenge to you is that you can achieve more by working less.

Working harder creates burn-out. Working harder satisfies the voice in your head, the monkey on the shoulder, who says, “If you are not working long hours then you are short-changing yourself".  What utter tosh. 

We have been sucked in by the protestant work ethic (which did apply to factory workers where longer hours equal more pay). However, most of us are not factory workers, we are knowledge workers, and our pay is proportionate to the quality of ideas rather than the number of hours that we work. 

So, what's holding you back?

Admittedly, you have to put in the hours in the early stage of your business in order to get the enterprise off the ground. If success is a consequence of the number of people that know about you then you need to meet as many people as possible. However, I would argue that there is no point being a busy fool.

Once the business is up and running, the quality of your time is more important than the quantity. You need to spend as much time working ‘on’ the business as possible, stepping back and making sure you are doing the right things. The risk of spending too much time ‘in’ the business is that you might become a busy fool where you can’t see the wood for the trees. You don’t want to build a business that is 100% dependent on you 100% of the time. You want to create a self-sustaining machine that will survive without you.

Taken to its logical extreme, anything that is a repeated task should be handed over to someone else. If you can give a task to someone who can do it for £6.50 per hour then your holding on to that task means that, in effect, you only value your time at £6.50 per hour. Surely it is worth more than that.

Here are my one-liners, to print and put by your computer screen:



Let others do the rest.

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