Most entrepreneurs and execs put in an unnatural amount of hours every week. It seems like the standard is about 60 hours, though many reach far beyond that. It’s as if the time spent developing a company is a hair shirt that one is proud to don to prove his devotion to the cause. However, as time wears on and other life responsibilities fall by the wayside, it’s easy to see that there are no awards given for number of hours spent at the office. It’s a thankless task, that only the devotee, himself, appreciates. If you’re stuck on a never-ending treadmill of work, take heed. Work/life balance is a myth only for a mind which lacks balance.
Work Fewer Hours if You Want to Get More Done. Although it sounds counterintuitive, your body actually needs rest periods to perform at its best. One study showed that working more than 55 hours per week was essentially useless, because productivity drops so much as work time increases. Moreover, the amount of work a person can complete between 50 and 55 hours is marginal. If you feel like you must clock the extra time, try to cap yourself off at 50 hours each week. You’re likely to see an improvement in the quality of your work, and the amount you accomplish should not diminish. An alternate study performed by a productivity company uncovered an interesting habit of employees who get more work done- they take more breaks. Ultimately, the top-performing 10% of workers put in fewer than 8 hours, and they take an average 17 minutes in break-time for every 52-minute block they work, too.
Every Day Should Feel Like a Vacation. Mahatma Gandhi reportedly worked 15 hours every day of the week, thus totally shattering the guidelines for productivity. When he was asked about why he hadn’t taken a vacation in 50 years, he told a reporter, “I am always on vacation.” Maybe he just really loved what he did, or maybe he took breaks throughout the day to look at cute baby animals. Ok, probably not, but research from Japan indicates that people who do so are happier, and that makes them more productive. Similar studies have shown that watching nature scenes can have the same effect as well. In the end, the key is to have true passion and enjoyment for what you do, and to take short escapes throughout the day to do things that will boost your morale.
You Still Need Real Vacations and Days Off. Jeff Sutherland, author and CEO of Scrum, Inc., wrote a piece for Slate a while back that covered the story of Scott Maxwell of OpenView. As Maxwell entered the field with an alternate firm in the 1070s, his boss explained to him that everyone at the company worked seven days every week. That was the expectation for those who wanted to be successful with the company. Maxwell balked, as he always took Sundays off for religious reasons. Moreover, he felt he was getting more accomplished than those who worked every day. Rather than give in to the corporate culture, he took a second day off, and became even more productive. He took his philosophies with him to OpenView, where he discovered that not only did people perform their best when working fewer than 40 hours, but that they needed their days off and vacation time in order to maintain morale and energy.
Shut Off Work When You Aren’t There. In today’s modern era, we’re tethered to work with our smartphones, laptops, and computers. However, it’s essential for our overall well-being and our minds, that we disconnect ourselves from work when we aren’t there. In fact, many companies, like OpenView, have adopted the policy that you’re failing if you have to check in when you’re off the clock. It’s simply not permitted. Although employees may see this as a boon for morale, senior staffers know the real truth- it makes the employees accomplish more when they are clocked in.
Create a Schedule Based On Your Circadian Rhythm, and Stick to it. Our bodies have an internal clock, and everything from hormones to productivity is dependent upon it. Most people wake around 6 or 7 in the morning, and achieve peak performance a couple of hours afterwards. By the time afternoon arrives, melatonin begins to rise again, and the ability to be productive begins to diminish. If you naturally rise earlier or later, your master clock will differ somewhat, but it will follow the same pattern. Take advantage of it, and schedule your workday accordingly. This also means allowing for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, when your body naturally needs it. This sets you up to have an impactful morning, which carries you throughout the day. It’s also worth noting that willpower is largely ruled by your internal clock. If you frequently find yourself accepting tasks that you know you should have declined, or agreeing to deals because you’re exhausted at the end of the day, this is why. When your schedule is based on your circadian rhythm, this should be a thing of the past.
Delegate and Outsource. Productivity expert David Allen says, “You can do anything, but not everything,” and that’s one of the core messages your personal life coach would impart upon you as well. There are tasks at home you may never get to, and that’s ok. Hire the kid from down the street to mow your lawn. To help with overburden at work, you can find a freelancer or intern to help you with administrative tasks. Do what you need to do to ensure that things get done, so you can be present in each moment.
Being successful at work isn’t about working a million hours. As numerous studies have shown, you will be more productive when you learn to cut back, and take the time you need for yourself. This will most certainly benefit your career, and your family and personal life will flourish as well. Balance in life depends on balance of your mind. Simplify your life and be present.