Why You Should Work Less (and a 10-Minute Time Check-Up)

Woman with alarm clock covering her face

Workaholics: You know who you are. You’re the first one in the office in the morning. You stay up late on weekends working. Vacations involve cramming as much work as possible into 12-hour days leading up to your departure, and coming back to a impossible stack of to do’s.

You use the words, “I’m sorry” and “catching up” way too frequently.

Each day, you add more items to your monster to-do list than you cross off.

Early in our careers and when we start businesses from scratch, the hours are long and your passion fuels incredible momentum.

You’ve seen long, hard work pay off, so why not continue to clock as many hours as possible?

The cost-benefit trade-off quickly boils down to a heavy burden on your health, relationships, and quality of life, leading to stagnation and burnout.

Your time is your greatest limiting factor.

Time management is less about tactics and much more about sacrificing low margin activities for an intentional focus on what will make a real difference. Take ten minutes now to build intentionality into your schedule so that you can accomplish the meaningful in less time and build resiliency for the long haul.

10-Minute Time Audit

Grab a pen and paper. Answer these three questions to quickly shed light on whether your time allocations add up. Then, experiment with adjustments to focus your efforts, trim the fat, and invest in your most critical asset: you.

1. What are your top 3-5 core values?

Examples: Health, Freedom, Love, Generosity, Hard Work, Courage, Adventure, Health

If you’re struggling with this list, it’s time to step back and get clear so that you can align your life with your deepest priorities. SoulSalt, a coaching firm for entrepreneurs and revolutionaries offers a free Be True course on Udemy that will help you do just that.

2. How do you actually spend your time?

We all have the same 168 hours in every week. How did you allocate yours last week?

Pull out your calendar and do a quick and dirty estimate.

Start by subtracting out the hours you spent sleeping.

Now, total up your work hours – including those emails you checked on your phone everyday before bed.

Outside of work, how many hours did you spend:

  • Exercising?
  • Reading?
  • Eating?
  • Cleaning?
  • Engaging in hobbies?
  • Interacting with loved ones?
  • Attending to your spirituality?

Add in any categories you need until you account for all 168 hours, and don’t forget meaningless internet browsing and Netflixing.

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Did your time mirror your core values and priorities?

If learning is one of your core values and reading came to 1% of your entire week, an adjustment might drastically improve your impact.

3. Which work hours make a difference?

Continue using last week as your example. How many hours did you spend commuting? In meetings? On calls? Emails? Meetings?

How many hours were dedicated to meaningful projects that moved the needle? Did meetings impact the bottom line in the right direction?

Armed with the data, use your core values and time insights as a guideline and sketch out what an ideal week should look like. Challenge your assumptions. Try reducing your total number of work hours while accomplishing more at work and beyond work.

Avoid the temptation to build in time for everything back-to-back. Not only is this unrealistic, it’s the quickest way to get behind and start sacrificing all priorities that lack an external deadline.

Start with your core values and priorities. If health is on the top of the list, schedule your exercise classes or morning runs first.

After your core values are present in your schedule, move on to better utilizing your time at work.

Make sure you (and your team) are dedicating each morning for the big picture and creative projects. Try moving all meetings and calls to the afternoon when solo creativity and focus naturally wane.

Start saying no.

Break out your to-do list and calendar. Review the tasks you’ve given yourself, assignments you’ve committed to for others, and recurring activities that have simply hung around long after their purpose was served…cut out anything that is not aligned with your current priorities – both personally and at work.

Each time you review your tasks for the day, start asking yourself:
• Will this move big picture projects forward?
• If not, can it be deleted, delegated or delayed?

Create a hidden parking lot of ideas and opportunities that aren’t relevant to today so that they can stop distracting you. Remove negotiable deadlines from everything that isn’t a priority.

Finally, be fully present for every activity that passes muster and makes it onto your calendar. Practice “voluntary simplicity,” an anecdote to mindless multitasking described by Jon Kabat-Zinn in Wherever You Go There You Are:

“Going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so that I can do more, acquiring less so that I can have more. Choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us.”

168 hours. You do not have time for every opportunity.

Focus on what’s important to you, what you’re passionate about in business, and you will find more than enough time to create a meaningful life and rare impact.

“Sometimes a 2% swing in the way you spend your time can have a huge impact on your happiness and success. Always look for that 2%.”
– Gary Vaynerchuck

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