America is a nation of workaholics. Working for 12-16 hours a day is the norm, rather than the exception, here. Everywhere you look, people are rushing up and down trying to squeeze whatever they can out of their 24-hour day. In some cases, extremely long working hours looks unavoidable. Take the situation of a working mother with small kids at home. They leave their office jobs at 5.30 pm and rush home to find another 6-hour job taking care of the kids waiting for them. But in the vast majority of cases, we work ourselves sore not because we have to, but rather, simply because we are conditioned by society to think that this is the only way to work successfully. But that’s not true. You really can make money working just 2 hours a day. Now before you dismiss this claim as just another of the new world fads that have little practicability, let me explain.
The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule says that we can work just 2 hours a day and become just as productive as a person working on an 8-hour job by simply by focusing on the 20% part of our work that delivers true leverage. It’s an easy and straightforward concept. If you take a closer look at your work, you will find that just a few of the sum total of all your work activities really make an impact and deliver your useful work output.
Take the case of a professional blogger. For this person, writing blog posts, sending emails to various newsletters and creating content for paying customers are the real leverage activities for their business. These activities might take roughly 20% of the person’s day. All the other activities such as reading emails by friends, chatting with friends, reading the morning and evening paper as well as making long incessant calls to family and friends alike have no real value to their work. If this person was self-employed, they would have the freedom and flexibility to plan their work as they saw fit and might require just 4-5 hours to complete their work. Interestingly enough, if the same person was to work in an office employed by a boss, they might require maybe 10 hours or more to deliver the same results.
Tim Ferris aptly points this out in his book ‘‘The Four Hour Week.’’ He asserts that if you were to carefully measure the time you take to complete your work, you will discover that your actual productive time is quite small compared to the overall time you take for the whole task. A person who spends 8 hours in the office might collectively get about 2 hours of real work done. Another short work week proponent, Eben Pagan, suggests that we should schedule our work in such a way that we work in short bursts of about one hour then take a short break. We tend to work at optimal levels of focus and concentration for short periods before our ability to focus degrades.
The point here is that we are simply not designed to work long hours, day in day out. Doing so actually harms our bodies and, in the process, makes us less productive. Take a look at your work day holistically and get to understand the interconnectedness of the various aspects of your life. In most cases, the aspects that need changing to get the most out of your working hours are:
Loving what you do is the most important factor that determines your overall long-term productivity. If you hate your job, look for a career change. I know that’s easier said than done, but being out of work for a couple of months might be the sacrifice you have to make to get a lifetime of work and career satisfaction. If you are self-employed and love your work but still find yourself totally exhausted at the end of the day, then you are most likely engaging in too much non-productive stuff. Streamline your work by cutting out all that excess baggage that does not directly contribute to your productivity. Mix things up a bit and enjoy what you do and you will realize that, after all, you really can make money working just 2 hours a day.