Blog | Entrepreneurship

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Why working smarter, not harder, is the path to true success

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Whenever I talk to my friends who work for a living—as in work for other companies and not themselves—I hear a constant refrain.

“How are things?” I ask.

“I’m so busy,” they answer. “I’ve been putting in a lot of hours at work.”

In America, especially, it is a badge of honor to work a lot of hours, and most people are working a lot. Everyone gets a trophy, after all.

But as Quartz points out, “…countless studies have shown, this simply isn’t true. Productivity dramatically decreases with longer work hours, and completely drops off once people reach 55 hours of work a week, to the point that, on average, someone working 70 hours in a week achieves no more than a colleague working 15 fewer hours.”

Most folks haven't received the memo, however. Consider these facts from my article, “The One Surprising Investment that Separates the Rich and the Poor”:

  • The average U.S. worker clocks in about 1,804 hours per year at work—the highest output in the world

  • 56% of Americans report doing work from home

  • 20% report doing it every day of the week

  • 25% didn’t take any time off last year

  • 43% took less than a week off

Those numbers represent a 400% increase in productivity since 1960—and a lot of tired, time-constrained Americans running the Rat Race.

Yet, the inflation-adjusted wage growth for the middle class has stayed stagnate or declined. As the Economic Policy Institute reports, “From 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation of a typical (production/nonsupervisory) worker rose just 9 percent while productivity increased 74 percent.”

Clearly, working more doesn’t mean making more.

Why working harder is a poor mindset

One reason for this might be that many of the people our culture perceives as “successful” preach the gospel of working long hours.

As Quartz writes, “…the patron saint of work boasts, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, declared that ‘nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.’ Musk said in November that he worked 120-hour weeks, and on Twitter claimed that 80 to 100 hours per week is necessary to change the world.”

And in an article for “Entrepreneur,” Rajiv Talreja writes, “If your aim in life is to sip on a nice cocktail as you sit on a beach chair, listening to the sound of the waves hitting the shore—then entrepreneurship is not your game. If you want to build a business, then be prepared to work longer and harder than anyone else around you. Entrepreneurship is a physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting process. If you want free time, take a vacation. Build a business only if you are willing to immerse yourself in your company and ready to work 80 hours a week.”

If you searched right now, you could find thousands upon thousands of articles talking about how working long hours is what it takes to make it big. With such role models in front of us as a culture, it’s no wonder we value long hours and late nights as a mark of perceived success.

But the reality is that as successful as these role models are or might be, they still have a poor mindset. Why do I say this? Because they still equate success to hours worked, not to the amount of work you can squeeze out of your hours.

Maximizing your hours is working smarter, not harder

A while back, I interviewed entrepreneur, investor, and author Tim Ferriss on the Rich Dad Radio Show. Tim is the author of the best-selling books, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” “The 4-Hour Body,” and “The 4-Hour Chef.” One of the things I love most about Tim is that he became a very rich and famous person with the exact opposite mindset than many of the so-called role models out there in the work-till-you-die entrepreneurship circuit. In fact, his books are all about doing more in less time.

Tim asks the simple question, “How do you 10X your hourly output? That's the question that I attempt to answer in [“The 4-Hour Workweek”]. You don't have to work four hours a week, but it's a catchy title that reflects that objective.”

That is the mindset of a rich person. Not how many hours a week do I need to work to be rich, but instead how much can I get out of my hours so I can do more with less time in order to be rich.

The 12-year old smarter than most successful people

In order to change your life, you have to change your mindset. And to change your mindset, you often have to find new role models. If you find yourself in the work too much Rat Race, consider the story of 12-year old Gabrielle Goodwin, the inventor of GaBBY Bows, a barrette product company that sells in 50 states and 10 countries—Including a recent retail windfall with Target, where she sells her product on the shelves of 74 stores.

An article in “Black Enterprise,” details how Gabby, with the help of her mother, is micro-franchising her business. This means that other kids and families can sell her products, make money, and in the process make Gabby money. As a 12-year old kid in school, I can guarantee you that she is not working 80 hours per week, yet she’s building a successful business—the right way. She’s discovering ways to make her business work for her, not the other way around.

Gabby is putting into practice what we’ve preached for years as part of the B-I Triangle: to invest in building out systems and to outsource as much as possible. Even with a product that isn’t the best on the market, you can win in the market by having the best, most-efficient systems and outsourcing for more time and less cost. This is exactly how McDonald’s was built. You can probably cook a better hamburger than McDonald’s but you can’t beat their systems and their franchise network.

Almost all of the most successful people I know actively find ways to work less and work smarter, not work more and work harder. If you’re doing the latter, you’re actually not free. You’re a slave to your company, and it’s not unlike being a high-paid employee. In fact, in my experience, those who feel compelled to work 80 hours a week or more are actually entrepreneurs who have taken on too much venture capital and investment. The clock is ticking and they don’t really own their company—their investment partners do. And they’re a demanding bunch.

How to find your true worth

In the spirit of chasing your mindset, there is a different way to find your worth than in how hard you work and the number of hours you put in each week. The most successful people I know, and by successful I mean financially, physically, and spiritually, are those who find their worth in how many assets they can produce or invest in that free up their time.

Think about it this way, if you’re doing it right shouldn’t your business or your investments be providing your money each month even if you’re not working? If you have to work as much or more than an employee to keep your money coming in, what’s really the difference? You don’t own a business, it owns you. Or your ego does. Some people think they are the only reason their business is successful. And if your business needs you to succeed, then you haven’t built good systems in the first place. And most often ego is driven by fear…fear that if you aren’t in control at all times everything will fail.

This is not to say that you don’t have to work hard, especially at the beginning and often at key times of growth, but the end goal should be to build teams, processes, and systems that get you out of that as fast and efficiently as possible.

Your true worth comes from being able to invest your time in those that you love and passions that you care about. You can’t do that when you work 80 hours a week. Your true worth comes from working less—that is the sign of a smart business owner and investor.

So, take some of your down time to reflect on how you find your worth. Is it from working too much? Or is it from finding ways to make your assets work for you? I hope it’s the latter. If not, perhaps fear is holding you back.

Try this exercise from Tim Ferriss: Fear Setting. Which he talks about in my interview with him on the Rich Dad Radio Show:

What I encourage people to do is for whatever decision you're considering, starting a business, quitting your job, ending your relationship, whatever, or starting a relationship, is to just take a piece of paper, break it down into three columns. The first column is all of the things that could go wrong. All of your fears, write them down, get specific. The second column is the things you could do to minimize the likelihood of each of those happening. And in the third column is how you could get back to where you are now if those things happened. And when people go through that exercise, usually they realize that their fears are either completely an illusion or they're really not that bad at all and probably transient or reversible.

By facing your fears head on about how much you think you need work, what it means to you, and the motivations behind it, you can then build the foundation to work smarter, not harder.

Original publish date: December 18, 2018

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