Dan Sullivan thinks that many entrepreneurs work too much. His article got me thinking about time spent working and I realized that I am not a hard worker. Here is what Dan writes about work:
At the turn of the last century, factories revolutionized the way goods were produced and delivered to the public. With factory work came a different attitude toward workers. They were parts in a machine and could be replaced. While they were working, it was necessary to ensure that things ran as uniformly and predictably as possible. Every day's work was the same, and compensation was given in exchange for the length of time worked. Working long hours was a sign of loyalty. In sum, it was a bureaucratic time system. I call it the Time-and-Effort Economy.
Today, bureaucratic systems are breaking down. Advances in technology have radically shifted our thinking, emphasizing the limitless creative potential of the individual. Entrepreneurs are on the leading edge of this trend, stepping free from old structures to innovate and create value with greater speed and adaptability than lumbering institutions, which are focused on perpetuating themselves rather than serving their markets. Entrepreneurs live in what I call the Results Economy. They get paid only for the results they produce, based on the value these results create for their clients and customers. For them, it is an entrepreneurial time system.
Why, then, do so many entrepreneurs still operate as if it mattered how long or how hard they work? An unhealthy notion of virtue has become attached to burnout, regardless of whether the long hours have produced any results. This thinking completely misses the point of being an entrepreneur, which is freedom.
I have never put in hours just for the sake of putting in hours, which I think many people do. I have always been results oriented, which is why I think I will enjoy entrepreneurship. When I did engineering work, I hated having to stay around for 40 hours a week even if I could do all the work of a *normal* employee in about 25. From a results perspective I should be able to go home and still get the same pay, but that just doesn't fly. So, like most people, I learned to expand the work to fit the week so I didn't get too bored.
I remember back in the late 90s when I took a class in Denmark. We traveled to Holland and visited some executives at Imation. One of the VPs told me that Americans work too much. Their view was that if you couldn't get your work done in 40 hours a week then something was wrong with you. Overtime was a sign of incompetence, not a badge of honor.
In some jobs, you can accomplish more simply by working more, but in knowledge jobs you often accomplish less. One you reach a point of diminishing returns it is tough to justify working extra hours. Now that I am doing my own thing, it doesn't matter. Work and life blend together so that sometimes I am doing things that I enjoy but that also help my work. Is that work? I don't know. The only way I can consistently do 60 hours a week is if I disguise it this way, so that some of it seems like fun. But for those of you who don't like your jobs that much, and who don't want to work the extra hours except to make your boss happy, I would encourage you to take a stand. Don't get hung up in the stereotypes of the American workplace. Work-life balance is important. Taking care of things in your personal life is one of the best ways to make yourself a focused, rested, and productive contributor at your job.