I have a little secret.
It was 5 years ago this week that I finally said adios to the 9-to-5, and I’ve worked for myself ever since. And here’s my little secret. I haven’t worked a normal 40-hour work week since.
Now, it’s hard to calculate my hours. Because sometimes I don’t do a great job of separating work and home life. And I come and go from work as needed.
But I’d estimate I’ve worked an average of about 30 hours per week for the last 5 years.
I get to spend a lot of that extra time with my kids.
And I have flexibility, too, when I need it.
Which comes in handy on days like today.
Yesterday at about 11 AM, we get a call from Oscar’s school (he’s the 3-year-old).
“Oscar’s finger got shut in the door. He’s been crying for about 5 minutes. We’ve done everything we could to calm him down, but want to know what you’d like to do.”
Well, my wife ended up picking him up yesterday, and bringing him home.
Turns out it was the door to outside. And he’d gotten caught in the hinge side as it closed. And locked. So they couldn’t even get him out quickly.
No fault on the teachers. I trust that they did their best.
But that’s scary for a 3-year-old! (He’d remind me that as of Tuesday it’s three-and-a-half!)
And indeed, I’m sure it hurt.
His hand was a bit swollen. The finger, red and blue.
We have a couple doctors in the family. So we made a few phone calls. Could be fractured.
Could take him to the ER, and come home with a splint and a big bill. Or, since we know basic first aid, could do the splint ourselves. As long as the swelling doesn’t get worse, it’s probably a small fracture at worst and as long as it doesn’t get hurt again, it should heal nicely.
Well, we get him taken care of, and get him some ibuprofen too, to help with the pain and inflammation.
Fast-forward to this morning, and not only is he nursing his wound, but Dominic, our 5-year-old, is wiped out, even after a full night’s sleep. He’s been complaining about feeling low for a couple days. Could be that he only ever wants to eat breakfast, or could a virus. We opt to lose the perfect attendance record, and let him stay home for the day and rest.
And while we’re at it, Ramie, the 11-month-old, gets to stay home, too.
My wife has clients lined up all day, so I’m in charge.
It’s been a good day, but there’s been a lot going on to take care of all of them. Thank goodness for Cabbage Patch Kids CDs and Skippyjon Jones read-alouds on YouTube.
Now they’re all finally asleep at the same time, and I’ve got maybe 30 minutes to get this written and queued up to send to you.
Which got me thinking.
Maybe I should write about productivity. And about making the most of your time.
Another story, then I’ll get to the lesson.
Yesterday, as I was picking Dominic up from school, I ran into Pat, one of his friend’s dad.
He’s a high school teacher. I don’t normally see him in the afternoon. He’s almost always still at his school when the elementary gets out.
So I asked him what’s up.
He said he took the day off. He doesn’t do it often, but he uses days off when he has a bunch of stuff building up. He opens up a whole day on his schedule, and knocks a bunch off his to-do list.
And as entrepreneurs, we don’t even have to use our vacation time to do it.
In fact, the better you get at taking days off, the more productive you can become.
This is something I learned from Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach.
Dan actually has a time system he recommends for entrepreneurs that involves the strategic use of three types of days.
– Free days, a 24-hour period where you’re not allowed to touch your business.
– Focus days, a 24-hour period where you spend at least 80% of your productive time on the most important cash-generating aspects of your business.
– And buffer days, a 24-hour period between free days and focus days where you do all the little stuff you have to do that would otherwise pull you away from the most important tasks in your business.
By compartmentalizing your focus, your freedom, and your other stuff, you’re able to fully release yourself into each. (He actually talked about this on his excellent 10X Talk podcast with Joe Polish — here’s the episode, but beware the auto-play on the embedded YouTube video!)
Your focus will be sharper on your focus days, because that’s your main thing for the day.
Your freedom will be freer on your free days, because you will have given yourself permission to not touch your business.
And your buffer days will support both, by taking care of all the little things about your business that can kill both your time working on your business, and your time away from the business.
Truthfully, most of us entrepreneurs know that our income is pretty directly tied to our input into the business.
But there’s a mistaken interpretation of that.
It’s that more time is equal to more input. And so we become 365-day entrepreneurs. Giving time, energy, and attention to our business 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. (Plus that one other day in a week, for those of you who realize that 7 days times 52 weeks is 364!)
Rather, the output of our business isn’t necessarily determined by sheer quantity. Working 24 hours a day wouldn’t necessarily increase our income.
Rather, it’s a function of both quantity and quality.
The 4-hour work week doesn’t really exist. Not even for Tim Ferriss. You have to put substantial time into your business. (Maybe you only spend 4 hours every week doing what you don’t like doing — which I think was the real point of that book.)
But also, the higher quality of attention and work you do in your business, the more you can get done in the same amount of time.
I recently saw some research that said the optimal work week, for employees, was actually somewhere between 35 and 40 hours. It’s the same for entrepreneurs, I’m sure.
Put in better work, in slightly less time, and you’re going to achieve more.
Dan Sullivan’s approach, with the three days, is a good one. It’s not one I’m using consistently. Though I think I should get on it — my business would probably benefit.
But whatever you do, you will benefit from being flexible. And from not overworking yourself.
I’ll leave you with a mental image to illustrate.
My brother-in-law once competed in state power lifting meets. He had a rigorous training regimen, that allowed him to quickly increase the amount of weight he was lifting, up to a highly competitive level.
He did not do this by lifting all day, every day.
Rather, he put in regular training, and used rest and recover days to let his muscles continue to grow in strength.
If he’d lifted too much and too often, he simply would have exhausted himself. But by lifting less, he was able to lift more.
Remember, your “work muscle” functions in much the same way.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets