When I tell people I work 25 hours a week, they look at me skeptically: “How can you manage a business working part-time only?” or “I couldn’t do that; I love working too much.”
Funny enough, I love what I do more than ever.
It so happens I do.
Let me elaborate on this.
In most countries, the workweek is around 35 to 40 hours a week, so around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Now looking at the 25-hour workweek, that means 10 to 15 hours less per week. That makes it 3 hours less per day, so 5 hours of work per day when working for 5 days a week.
What does this mean in terms of work productivity?
The more working time you have, the more space left for distractions and the more time you spend on pointless tasks. It becomes easier to get sidetracked and lose focus.
The challenges here are to project manage your own time and use your efforts strategically.
Better manage your to-do list
So why do so many people struggle with managing their week? There are several reasons. The easiest one is that “we have always done it that way.” Another one has to do with the journey of leaders. Still today, some leaders adopt a parenting style rather than coaching and mentoring one. Putting out fires rather than coming up with long-term solutions.
Here’s a simple exercise to begin with.
Look at your list of tasks for today and predict how much time you need to allocate to each of them. Make a note as you go through your day of the things you have completed and of any distractions and breaks you took. At the end of the day, reassess that list and note down which tasks you effectively completed and how long it took you to do them. Be honest with yourself.
After that, have a look at the things you do every day; which one of them are things that it makes a difference if you do them? Are these things that you love, you excel at? The mantra for me is that we should be spending 80% of our time doing things that we excel at. Unfortunately, in the past, that wasn’t always the case for me. More than that, when I look around at my peers, I see a lot of them also struggling and sinking into tasks that shouldn’t be on their plate in the first place.
Here are a couple of questions I ask myself on a frequent basis when evaluating tasks I do.
Does it add value to the business?
Will it make a difference if it’s done by me?
Will I be quicker, more efficient?
Is this the best use of my time?
Is it a one-off or a repetitive task?
Do I like doing it?
Is there potential for growth?
The tasks that really make a difference, impact the business, and can only be done by you should be at the top of your list. If you focus those 5 hours a day on completing these tasks, at the end of the week, your performance will have peaked.
We often prioritize tasks that are the most pleasurable or interesting for us instead of really focusing on those that will bring the best results for the business. It’s only natural that we are this selfish when we have to spend many hours working. Pleasurable and interesting activities, however, keep us engaged and energized. Hence this is questionable but not the worst situation. The opposite, however, is. I am talking about taking up a lot of our time for repetitive tasks, not our strengths.
This, in exchange, makes people want to be as effective as possible with their time, understand the business better, know and use their strengths, hunt for opportunities to be successful, and drive value by submitting high-quality work.
When I did this exercise with a CEO a few months ago and analyzed where his time was spent, we realized that out of his 80+ hour work week in the best scenario, he spent 15 hours doing things that he is good at and passionate about, and that makes a difference if he makes them.
Understandable we won’t always be in the position to remove tasks from our task list immediately, especially if we are working within a corporate setting. But it will give us a a guide, an understanding, even a goal maybe. If you have the possibility to use your entrepreneurial spirit , figure out how to best remove those tasks from your to do list. Is it by the use of technology? Maybe you can outsource it, maybe a colleague is better suited and interested to perform. It might be their opportunity for growth.
Use technology to your advantage
The current development of time-saving technology allows people to take over more creative and strategic tasks rather than manual administration processes that used to consume most of their working time. Think about the tools and technology that can actually help you reduce working hours.
To create this article, I’m personally using one time-hacking tool, Otter, a voice transcribing tool. That’s where I record most of my content to create the first draft of my blog posts. It allows me to simply record my thoughts and ideas when I feel the most inspired, sparing me a good half an hour organizing my thoughts into topics and then writing everything down.
Effectively divide work in your team
Reducing your workweek time also demands something that many leaders and teams don’t often consider: to better distribute work considering the talents and skills of your people. Some of the tasks I did were extremely tiresome and time-consuming for me, as they were not my strengths, nor I enjoyed doing them. Hence, they have now been delegated to better-skilled team members that can more easily and rapidly complete them.
So work productivity does not equal the number of hours you spend in front of a computer. It’s about how much you get done in the shortest amount of time.
And while it sounds quite simple, it does require you to:
- set up the work environment that’s more adjusted to the task at hand (to avoid distractions or to gain inspiration)
- identify which work habits take your focus away (frequent breaks, checking up emails and messages frequently, social media)
- understand which lifestyle habits prevent you from being focused (unhealthy food, lack of exercise and hydration, and bad sleep patterns for example)
I believe that every person should treat themselves like a high-performance athlete. You’re in fact a corporate athlete, and with that, comes all the responsibilities and demands.
High productivity requires preparation and time
Now, achieving high productivity requires the right mindset as well as soft and hard skills training. It’s a process, it won’t happen overnight and there’s a learning curve before you feel you have reached cruising speed or stabilized.
I have invested time in developing the necessary skills, and I would say that on an average day today, I’ll get twice as much done compared to what I used to.
Moreover, my work is much more valuable than it used to be for the business. And the 25-hour work week keeps me sharp and focused on the things that I know make a difference.
Be flexible when meeting the business needs
You are not obligated to do 25 hours every week only and guarantee that you don’t go beyond or beneath it.
Some weeks require more time investment from me than others and that’s absolutely natural. It is always possible to balance it out later. When you set a weekly number of hours, it should act more as a guide, not a rule.
My weekly work nowadays encompasses coaching and spending time with my clients, business strategy and development, some marketing tasks, analyzing business data, and giving peer guidance.
As you can deduce from this list, it’s only natural that in some weeks the workload increases, especially when there is a higher number of speaking engagements, coaching work or when I’m working on new business services.
In those weeks, I adjust my schedule beforehand and follow through with my commitments. It’s as simple as that.
The benefits of working smart
One of the main benefits I’ve noticed after starting the 25h-workweek is an increase in mental clarity throughout the day.
In the past, I used to go on my tangent for 8 or even 12 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week. That left me both mentally and physically exhausted. I have now stopped having those yo-yo peaks in performance, the ups and the downs with brain fog and tiredness that come from forcing myself to work long hours.
I have been experiencing a high increase in creativity, a positive mental framework, a healthy work-life balance, and even more business awareness with many of those aha moments when I realize something crucial for the business.
Less and less, I spend 2 or 3 hours looking at something without being able to get ahead of it. Or those moments when I was almost breaking after 3 months of working and felt I needed time off.
The challenge is launched
As a coach and slow digital nomad, I have met many leaders and professionals who seem to be on the edge of burnout and have very little time to handle all the demands of their position.
Most of them seem to live inside a bubble of constant demands and responsibilities: to inspire and motivate their teams, embody the company culture, get and give feedback from employees, inform everyone about business developments, balance the needs of all stakeholders, empower, train, and offer their people opportunities for development, and the list goes on.
At the end of the day, they are left with little or no time to focus on developing themselves as professionals and get stuck in a hamster wheel.
While this may seem counterintuitive, these are the best people to start a 25-hour workweek challenge.
Limiting yourself to working on what are your core strengths, the tasks you excel at, and making the business thrive will allow you to understand where your input and attention are really needed, which tasks can be delegated, and which ones are, in fact, not crucial to the success of your business and organizational culture.
Hard? Very likely to be.
Rewarding? Without a doubt.
Lately, due to my consultancy work and my own leadership experience, I have come to appreciate even more how much of a deal-breaker leadership is. Great leadership is key to keeping the organization’s mission and values alive, driving business results, achieving consistently high performance as well as forging a connection between all stakeholders.
Many leaders draft business strategies but then fail when it comes to their execution. They have ideas aplenty, the workload is heavy, and they are too caught up in their own obligations to truly be able to meet the real needs and demands of all stakeholders.
That’s why I have recently started drafting a program for busy leaders who wish to win back time for their personal lives, while at the same time, achieving successful business outcomes and leading organizations with a high-performance culture.
If you wish to learn more about it, feel free to reach out. I’d love to help.