Work Less

(This piece is the second in a three-part series on “Working Less“.)

In the last piece, we established why the way we’re working isn’t working.

In this piece, we’ll learn about why working fewer hours (and viewing accomplishments as a by-product) is in our best interest. Not only is it possible to work fewer hours, but, more importantly, to accomplish the right work in the limited time you have.

Before we get into why working fewer hours is better, let’s delve into what exactly we mean by working less. The idea and the application of working less is a direct descendant of the principle of less but better. We work for fewer hours and produce better results.

The whole idea is to work fewer hours with greater intensity and focus. With this approach, we accomplish more in our time rather than working long, continuous hours.

What that means is when you’re at work, you work. That means not wasting time doing counterproductive things like some of us tend to do in our organizations today. Your work time is your work time, and you should honor it and use it wisely. Otherwise, what’s the point of spending time at work?

This is not to say you can’t have some fun in your work. That would be boring and unsustainable. I’ll talk more about incorporating play at work in the next piece. The point here is: when you’re at work, just work.

There are a few reasons why working fewer hours is in our best interest. This applies as much to knowledge workers in the corporate world as it does to entrepreneurs outside of it.

Working less (or spending less time at work) ironically produces more results. Here’s how: Working fewer hours acts as a time constraint. Because you know you only have a few hours that you can work every day, you’ll spend more time doing real work (producing results) and less time doing “busy-work” during the day.

Contrary to popular belief, setting boundaries/constraints (defining work hours) does not limit us; it liberates us. Only when we have clear boundaries can we have the freedom to act within those boundaries.

Working fewer hours forces us to focus on results and outcomes. Spending fewer (quality, focused) hours at work leaves us with sufficient downtime (time spent away from work). This helps us renew ourselves. As a result, we return more renewed and energized the following day to do better work. And the cycle continues. I wrote more about this in Work and Play.

Happy, productive employees positively affect the bottom line. Within the context of organizations, when there are results and outcomes (from employees), the organization benefits. When the organization delivers, the customers/vendors of the organization are happy. It’s a win-win-win situation for employees, organizations, and their customers/vendors. As a result, everyone (employee, organization, customer/vendor) is happy and inspired to do better work.

In some ways, I think our ancestors had it simple (not easy). At work, they would work from 9 to 5. Most of that time was spent doing actual work, not wasting time doing counterproductive things that you see employees doing today in most organizations.

When you’re working fewer hours, you want to be sure to be fully immersed in your work during those hours. That means not doing things other than working. That time is work time and should be treated as such. When you do that, you’ll be surprised by how much work you can get done in that little time. Not only will you get more work done, it will also impact the quality of your Play, which is vital.

In the next piece, I cover ways of working fewer quality hours in order to get the results you want.

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