If ever there was a day to avoid feeling guilty about taking a weekday off from work it would have been yesterday—Labor Day in the U.S.
While most people associate this 3-day weekend with beaches, barbecues and retail shopping sprees, Labor Day evolved in the late 19th century following decades of tensions between workers and unions on one side, and state security forces and employers on the other.
Workers in New York City celebrated the first Labor Day on September 5, 1882 with a parade organized by trade unions. Oregon was actually the first state to recognize Labor Day as a holiday in 1887. By the mid-1890s, more than 30 states recognized the first Monday in September as a holiday. In 1894 Congress voted unanimously to approve Labor Day as a full national holiday, and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law.
Ironically, what began as a Holiday to support progress in worker’s rights has become an excuse for many to overeat, overdrink, over-tan and over-shop. Just as disturbing, it has become a “free” catchup day at the office for way too many Type-A professionals.
Long hours don’t = hard work (or success)
The cleaning crew knows me pretty well at my office. Neighbors often see the lights on late at night in my home office. Everyone assumes I’m burning the midnight oil, but what they don’t know is that I typically take a 90-100 minute lunch break to exercise and/or run family errands. I often don’t start producing revenue producing work until 10am. I frequently leave the office well before 5pm on weekdays to coach youth sports, to catch my kids’ school events or to honor other family commitments.
So when people ask me how much I work, I usually say “about 16 to 18 times a week.” What that means is a solid morning session every weekday (5x), plus a reasonably hard afternoon session every weekday (5x more), plus a little catch up most weeknights (let’s call that 4x) and then two or three short sessions on the weekend (generally Sunday) to tie up on loose ends and to set the table for the week ahead.
And what about all those times when a solution for a tough client problem pops into my head while riding, swimming or running—a solution that never would have occurred to me at my desk? How do you put that kind of value-building for your client into an hourly billing system?
Our client Kyle Walters (Atlas Wealth Advisors) recently wrote that hourly billing encourages professionals to be inefficient. CPAs, attorneys, consultants—professions long based on billable hours—“are governed by a system that tells workers it doesn’t matter how well you are doing; it only matters how much time you spend doing it,” added Walters. He also pointed out that these are “effort-based” business models, not results-based models. “Why would firms promote and encourage ingenuity when they can create systems and processes that cuts the amount of time it takes to get the client the kind of results they’re paying for?” asked Walters.
In a New York Times interview Sunday, Jason Fried, CEO of the collaborative work tool company, Basecamp said that unlike most early stage tech companies, “we’re opposed to the prevailing idea in our industry that you have to work 60, 70, 80 hours a week to do a good job. We believe 40 is enough,” adding the 32 is sufficient in the summer months.
In 2010, Fried and his business partner, David Hansson published Rework, a book that systematically debunked workaholism and the “get-rich-young or die trying” culture of Silicon Valley. Fried and Hannson have a new book coming out this year called The Calm Company.
In the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University economist, John Pencavel, published a 2014 study that showed working more than 56 hours a week adds very little additional productivity. But too many insecure and/or highly driven workers feel that extra hours, whether at home or in a cubicle, demonstrates commitment and team spirit. Guess what? Your clients don’t care and your boss doesn’t care.
*** How often are you communicating with your clients? Chances are it’s not enough. Take our Insta-Poll and find out how you stack up to your peers
There are countless books published every year about time management and working less hard for more money. We haven’t joined the ranks of self-help gurus, but we’ve found two very simple techniques to be helpful for our team and our clients: The 25/5 method and the 5-4-1 method.
The Pomodoro 25/5 technique is based on repeated intervals of 25 minutes of hard thinking/working followed by consistent 5-minute breaks. Our own 5-4-1 technique is based on 5 hours of uninterrupted working/thinking time in the morning, followed by a 1-hour plus lunch break. Then you come back re-energized so you can work hard for 4 hours in the afternoon, followed by a reasonable dinner break for family time or personal time. Then you finish up with one hour of regroup time to review the promises, commitments and to-dos of the day and get set up for tomorrow.
It’s the number of hours you put in, but what you put into those hours. That’s how you create value for your clients, your customers and your stakeholders.
TAGS: Kyle Walters, Pomodoro technique, Jason Fried, David Hansson, John Pencavel, workaholics, ReWork, The Calm Company