There’s nothing like having no choice to help you make a decision.
My Entrepreneur Productivity Story and why it could help you
For the longest time, I’d been looking at ways to reduce my work time and/or workload.
The idea came about after I last re-read The E-Myth revisited.
I wanted to operate more like a Chief Executive, rather than a person who owns their own job. I’d heard of the 4 hour work week, and while I thought the idea was great, I had two mental hurdles.
1- I love what I do. Did then, still do. And I don’t want to do it less than 15 hours a week.
2- Mentally I had a problem believing everything could get done in 4 hours when I couldn’t afford to expand my staff yet.
So to me, 15 hours was the perfect compromise of time to become more of an executive, or at least to focus on my talents and skills instead of administrative work and other things I’d have to do in order to run my business.
Over the years I’ve had various levels of success with my decision.
From 2002, when I first became full time, until around 2004, I literally worked 19 hours almost every day, until I was worn out.
Then, as we lived in Vegas, my roommate and I would look up a special to use at an area Strip hotel. Or I’d accept an assignment that came with a free stay. We’d take two to four days off, then move back to our studio apartment to work.
Like most new entrepreneurs, I know everything about how to create a great product, and deliver the best service. But I didn’t really know how to run a business– not in the way that would make me work ON the business rather than IN it.
I knew how to write the books and figured out how to get people to buy them. I did everything myself except for short bursts of time when I could afford to buy or barter one-off services.
And I was making a good living – but I needed most of the money to go through my spoonie health regimen so that I would be able to work.
I had what was then referred to a “preexisting medical condition”.
So since I couldn’t afford COBRA when I was first fired for my bad health, I had to pay cash every month to not be in so much pain that I couldn’t work.
But I’m grateful for that time. I learned that I couldn’t keep that pace forever. More importantly I learned I didn’t have to- I just needed to leverage other people’s hours.
Not to mention, most of the work you do after working 55 hours a week is counterproductive. That’s something you have to learn at some point- working more than 55 hours a week should be your signal that you need help.
Because if everything you do over and above that number of hours is trash anyway, why not leverage the fresh hours of someone else?
And if you aren’t at that point? Why not learn from me before you get there?
Hard work paid off – to an extent
In 2005- 2007 I had several successes.
Great runs with some ebooks that sold well and kept selling as long as I placed ads. I still worked 19 hour days. BUT then I started working only half the year, from April to October/November.
Late 2006 I had a bad turn with my health. I couldn’t work at all for most of a year.
Coming out of that I had gained 100 pounds. I was also in my mid-30s and didn’t have the same drive I did in my 20s, nor the same tolerance for getting only 4 – 5 hours of sleep.
By early 2008, concern for my health helped me get to a 60 hour week.
It was at this point I started thinking: if I had go from working over 100 hours, six days a week to 60 hours, five or six days a week, couldn’t I go to 40, four days a week?
Or… GASP… 20?
From 2008 to 2015, I yo-yo’ed back and forth from outsourcing and delegating ruthlessly to doing everything myself, but having less “everything” to do.
Then in January 2016, I found out I had Cancer.
I had absolutely no provision for being able to take extended time off.
Most entrepreneurs I know don’t, and this is one of the reasons you need to become obsessed with productivity. Odds are that one day, you’ll have to deliver products or services while being incapacitated. In fact, if you don’t master this soon, it may be that or starve.
You need to learn how to have the same profit on much fewer hours.
Of course saving, investing and fundraisers can help with this. But that money can run out as well. Eventually, like most other disabled entrepreneurs, you may have to face the choice of whether to run through your savings or not be able to work. Disability benefits are harder to get than you think, even if you’ve been paying yourself a salary.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, seemingly out of the blue, I realized I was going to have to keep working while I had it, until they told me I couldn’t, just a lot less.
Most of the system was in place.
And by the time I started treatment in April, I was down to a 15 hour work week. I had a full day on Thursday, as that was when all my most important meetings and video recordings were.
Then there was an hour or two every weekday I split between research, writing and managing the teams put in place to split my workload and check quality.
I never dreamed that this was something I could do, have a 15 hour work week.
And there are weeks when it is 20, and weeks when I can only do 5 hours. In those weeks, I manage other people who do the bulk of the legwork.
That’s a little much for me, because the more I outsource at that level, the less I pay myself. It’s still great to have to the option to do that instead of closing my business.
Which got me thinking about why I didn’t do this years ago.
I don’t know what the answer is for you. For me it was fear. We’ll get into that in an upcoming next post.
For now, I invite you to share your story with me, if you are also struggling to go from working all the time to having a manageable schedule. I’ll be checking the hashtag #60to15 for your stories, so I can link to the best ones and share them with others.
It is possible to Do Less and Accomplish More.
Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing the resources I’ve been using, as a spoonie entrepreneur, to reduce my working hours from a frazzled 60 to a peaceful 15.
Not only have I been able to maintain the same income when I was able to work, for short bursts, I was able to increase it.
Sometimes I end up working more like 30 hours.
However, there were also weeks on end when I could not work at all. I was afraid both my businesses would have to close permanently.
With a boost from a health fundraiser, and some aggressive resource management, I was able to work a low pressure 15 to 20 hour week again.
As I enter the recovery phase of my cancer journey, I’m still able to keep my hours down as I begin to slowly recover my full time income.
We’ll start getting into how shortly.
Part of the #60to15 series for entrepreneurs on shortening your work week.
Got tips? Share them to the #60to15 hashtag on Twitter/Instagram, then anyone can read your submission. The best ones will be featured here.