Now I know what you’re thinking, working less means doing less right? Wrong. You simply shouldn’t be afraid to work less because one of life’s little lessons is that effort doesn’t correlate to rewards.
Most of the conventional wisdom distilled by magazines, celebrities and the government says that hard work will bring you a fortune but the sad fact is it won’t. Some of the richest people in the world don’t work 9-5.
Now it’s really important here to establish the difference between working less and being lazy. There’s a huge difference and yet companies up and down the country determine a person worth simply by the hours they put in.
To me being lazy means avoiding all work, but working less is far from being lazy because if you do it right then you’re actually in control of your time and focusing on the hard stuff that adds value.
It amazes me how many businesses are fooled by long hours. As a measuring stick of someone’s worth focusing on long hours fails to recognise that value isn’t derived from the amount of effort a person puts in and completely ignores the economic results of their work.
Put simply, you’re economically more valuable to me if in one hour you create £1,000, than over seven you create £100.
If like me you read lots of autobiographies, you’ll have noticed a theme among entrepreneurs, that no matter the hours they work, every hour they put in contributes heavily to the value of their business.
I for one maintain that in one hour I can produce more value than an average person can in an entire day. If I work for 7 hours a day then my output in that single day is often more than someone else in a similar role in an entire week.
Now that’s a pretty bold statement, but I make it because over time I’ve realised my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve outsourced my weaknesses to my team and concentrated on the strengths I have. It’s also important to note that I have somewhat detached myself from the day to day workings of my team, which enables me to focus on giving them the tools to hugely increase their value.
While the effort I go to to find that tool might be low, the value created by implementing it is huge and as such a relatively small amount of time spent actually creates a value reward exponentially bigger than the time spent would ordinarily warrant.
Think about it like this. You have two people chopping down a tree by hand, their manager spends 5 minutes ordering an electric saw and suddenly their tree chopping goes from one tree an hour to ten an hour. The value added by that manager’s small amount of work is equivalent to the output of twenty more men. How effective do you rate that 5 minutes vs an entire week of their time had they not made the order?
It’s like asking a formula one driver to race cars in a race that generates millions for 2 hours vs drive a bus, they can do both, but the fact is they add much more value to the economy by racing.
There is a converse argument to all this though, does this mean that we should value to effort of the bus driver less than the racing car driver?
Certainly the economy does, wages demonstrates this, as the value added by the millions in TV fees and sponsorship flows down to the racing driver like it does a footballer, but I’m a firm believer in the dignity of work.
Yes a bus driver might earn less, but that’s no ground to somehow devalue the work they do. For one thing without bus driver a large chunk of our national infrastructure would grind to a halt causing untold damages to the nation’s business. In essence then it’s important we separate the economic and wider social impacts of the value we create, but that’s a discussion for another forum.
Think for a moment then about an average day in your working life. How much time to do you spend procrastinating, chatting or doing things that don’t add value to your business? Now think about all the time you spend doing menial tasks that someone much lower skilled than you could do, packing boxes, sorting paperwork, filling out invoices etc. All of these things add up to hours not minutes in the day.
Cut them out and you’re getting close to my ethos on adding value. If you concentrate on doing only the things that you can do, and those things are undoubtedly special or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog, then you could get away with working much less and have pretty much the same impact on your business as you do now.
Add back in the hours you’ve just saved and refocus them on something important like working “on” not “in” your business and the value you start adding will increase rapidly.
Yet you don’t actually need to add those hours back in at work, what if you spent those hours focusing on yourself or your family. I think a common theme upon business owners is a lack of ability to deal with stress, so maybe those saved hours could be spent focusing on yourself.
At the end of the day you’re not a machine, and keeping your best asset (that’s you) at peak performance is often more important than you think.
Read our next blog post “The importance of focus”.