Like many things, work resides on a pendulum. It swings from one extreme to the other with an average being somewhere in the middle.
On one side of the pendulum is the CEO who works 100+ hour weeks. In the middle is the knowledge worker clocking in at 40 hours. And on the other side of the pendulum is the entrepreneur who works less than 20 hours a week yet makes a full-time income.
The 40-hour model is easy to understand. It’s what most of us are familiar with: show up to your job, sit at your desk for eight hours (whether you have something to do or not), then repeat each day. The 100+ hour model makes sense as well. The higher you climb, the more responsibility you get, the more you need to do.
Neither one of those models appeal to me though.
Working less and earning more
It’s the 20 hours or less model that I appreciate. One where work doesn’t rule your life but instead makes up a single part of it.
Tim Ferriss’, The 4-Hour Workweek, first introduced me to this idea many years ago. Ever since then, it’s something I’ve aspired to in my businesses. It’s also something I look for in real-life situations as well. Whether in entrepreneurial friends I meet or in biographies I come across. I seek out people who are working less and living well.
What I’ve found is that it is possible to attain. You just need to be deliberate. It also takes time to establish.
The 40 hour week is the standard. It is the lowest barrier of entry into work life. However, it is the hardest to escape from. Similarly, the 100+ hour model is a natural next step for someone in a corporate structure who is driven and yearns for responsibility. Then there’s the anti-CEO. The one who works less than a normal job and yet somehow makes more.
How do they do it and what can you apply to your own business to take advantage as well? I’ll use my own story to paint a picture.
*Note: I currently make about 40% of my former salary. However, at this time last year, I was only at 6%. Progress is progress. I also currently only work three to five hours each day. Not quite the 4-hour workweek, but it’s getting there.
The list has grown small
With any new business, there is much to do. Working 12 hour days is easy because your task list is endless.
But after a while – in my case, it took a few years – the list becomes whittled down. The big things are done and what’s left is the small nice-to-haves. Like taking a new photo for your profile picture. Things that would be great if they got done, but they by no means make an impact on your monthly earnings.
It’s a good spot to be at.
When I first started my business, I worked all the time. In the morning before my day job started, during lunch, on the weekends. Every free minute I had available went to the business. Now that the big things are taken care of, I work significantly less. My earning potential still has a ways to go but it continues to climb each month even though I’m working fewer hours than when I started.
It’s not your first time mopping
Further, as you become more proficient in your daily tasks, you get faster at them.
Imagine the first time you mopped the floor. It took hours. Your motions were awkward and clunky. You were unsure of what to do. But after your 1,000th time mopping? You were so expert at it you flew through the task without a second thought. What used to take hours not only takes minutes.
So too will that happen in your business as well.
The more you do something, the easier it gets. You build muscle memory and systems. You develop routines. And it’s those things that allow you to do the same amount of work in less time. Time you can either reinvest in your business if your task list is still long. Or time you can use to go out and get ice cream with your daughter.
Either way, it’s your time to use.
Your core competency
The biggest thing though, the thing that makes the greatest difference between those who work 20 hours and those who work 120 hours, is the ability to remove the unessential.
My focus this year has been on article writing. Nearly each day I’ve published an article. This article you’re reading right now is number 157. Meaning that since January, I’ve written 157 articles. I realized long ago that writing is the soul of my business. Not redesigning my site, not switching up email service providers, but writing.
It is the thing that generates the most money (and personal fulfillment) and thus it’s my main activity. Everything else is up and extra. So long as I get my article done for the day, I go to bed with a smile.
Since that realization, I’ve worked diligently to remove everything else. Well, either remove it or put it aside for some potential time in the future.
Remove everything else
As an entrepreneur, you feel like there are a million things you need to do. Especially when first starting out. However, once you get the hang of it, you realize most of those things are unnecessary.
A great example is social media.
I once had a QuickBooost Facebook page I would post to. Then one day I looked at my analytics and realized that less than 1% of my traffic was coming from Facebook. Considering I didn’t enjoy being there anyway, it made deleting my account (and all of my other social media) that much easier.
Everyone says you need to be on Facebook. Or Instagram. Or any of the other platforms. But if they’re not bringing you joy or increasing your earning potential, why spend time there? By deleting my accounts, I’ve saved myself the many minutes I would have wasted being logged in.
When you do that across every sector of your business, you eventually wind up with your core competency – the thing that actually makes you money and that you enjoy doing. It’s at that point you realize just how superfluous everything else is.
Work less moving forward
You don’t need to work 100+ hours if you don’t want to. Determine how much time you ideally wish to work and put intention into making it happen. You won’t rid yourself of it all immediately, but with time you will.
I have. And though my earning potential still has a ways to go, I know it is possible through seeing all those doing it around me.
Know that as you put in effort, you will get faster at what you do. Know that once the big things are out of the way, the small things can be seen as simply bonus items. And finally, know that if you focus on the thing(s) that actually make you money, everything else becomes unnecessary.
I’m off to go hang out with my family. What about you?