I’ve noticed Americans often pride themselves on how many hours they work. It’s a badge of honor to brag about pulling an all-nighter or staying out late and coming in early. As my birthdays tick by, it’s become increasingly obvious to me how broken this method of scorekeeping is. I decided to start playing a new game based on working less and producing more. Maybe you want to join me? We’re short a couple of players.
It all hit home for me last week. I saw Guns N’ Roses at FedExField Sunday evening with a few close friends. What a show! We ended up driving back home that evening, and the usual two-hour drive became five. Long story short, we ended up back home around 5 a.m. Two of my buddies announced they were heading to their offices at 6 a.m. Not because they had to. These guys are mostly business owners or other “set-your-own-schedule” types who don’t “have” to do anything. They’re driven, hardworking, and very successful. I love them.
I didn't announce my own plans for the morning (sleeping until 11:30 a.m.). After checking my phone upon waking up, I saw two separate texts from each friend announcing when they’d left for the office (5 points to Gryffindor!). I went for a run, ate lunch, and started my workday around 2 p.m. I got a lot done that day but couldn't shake the scorekeeping behavior around hours worked. I don’t care about effort. I care about results.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve observed hourly scorekeeping behavior among my friends. They’ve even gone through the trouble of pointing out my own low score. For seven years, I took every Friday off to watch my kids. All I’ve seen too many hours at the office yield are divorces, health problems, and early graves. For the sake of our families, friends, employees, and clients, we need to change the game and reset the scoreboard.
What if we could be happy with working in sprints and spending more time with our families? It’s taken me 20 years to shake off the guilt of time spent away from the office. Would our businesses suffer? My own experience has been the more time I spend engaged in non-work related activities, the more creative ideas I have and my work sprints are much more productive as a result.
My typical day consists of a run, either first thing or in the middle of the day, breakfast, drive to work, meetings with direct reports or clients, lunch, an afternoon meeting, and I’m typically home by 5 each day. It wasn't like that in the beginning, but I’ve slowly been able to count on my team for more and more of what used to consume me. Even if I launched another startup right now, I’d be loath to compromise my quality of work/life balance.
At Livewire, we believe time spent at work should be as productive as possible. We don't believe in face time and encourage our employees to go home and spend time with their families if they’re done with work. No guilt, no sideways glances, no talking behind anyone’s back.
What about your own work habits and businesses? Do you “work a lot of hours”? Why do you work so many hours? Do you need to? Are there $5-per-hour problems you could delegate so you spend more time on $500-per-hour problems? Over the years, as I’ve moved from doer to manager and now leader, I’ve been mired in too many $5 problems. After all, $5 problems are easy to fix and deliver a feel-good rush of adrenaline when you solve them. Now, if I’m faced with putting out a fire, I try to leave a fire extinguisher behind so it doesn't make its way onto my list of 99 problems again.
Instead of arguing with my friends about their opinions of me, I’m running my line and living life the way I want to. Too bad it’s taken me so long to stop caring about the perceived guilt of not “working a lot of hours” for a badge of honor. Maybe this blog can start a conversation about others feeling the same pressure to play the broken game. Let’s change the game by working less and producing more.
Stay frosty and see you in the field.