Work Less, Make More

“To succeed in business it is necessary to make others see things as you see them.”
– John H Patterson

In his new book The 80/20 Manager, Richard Koch cites a fascinating experiment on the subject of “forced time off”:

“…(Boston Consulting Group) consultants were obliged to take one day and one evening off, during which time they were not allowed to use email or voice mail… I’m sure you can guess the results. The teams who were forced to take days and evenings off rated higher not just on work-life balance but on job satisfaction, learning, personal development and open communication within the teams. Moreover, their clients reported greater value delivery than the clients of the control groups. Empirical proofs that less really is more.

“I’m waiting for someone to have the courage to test what would happen if a team is forced to take off two days… then three, then four. Let’s see what happens when they work just one day and one evening each week.” (page 174)

The Perlow and Porter experiment cited above hints at why this is so profoundly true. Faced with the constraint of having to take time off, the consultants at BCG suddenly found themselves having way more discussions about HOW work was being done and fewer conversations about WHAT work was being done.

“People were initially skeptical about spending so much time looking at work processes. But in the end, most teams found it helpful. The check-ins not only allowed teams to engage in explicit conversations about achieving their time-off goals, but they also sparked valuable discussions–involving the whole team–about priorities, expectations, and problems people were facing.

By contrast, in typical non-experiment teams, consultants generally start talking about problems only when they are already overstressed and less able to think rationally or do much about them.”

Re-read that last sentence. The zero-constraint, always-on, smartphone-addicted lifestyle of the average entrepreneur makes it LESS likely that you will think rationally about the strategic decisions you need to make in your business.

But forcing yourself to take time off, one evening a week, then one day a week and, yes, as Mr. Koch recommends, even 4 days a week, will force you to make clearer, more strategic decisions.

It’s an equation that seems to violate everything we’ve been told about work… we’ve been told that you work your tail off, lay aside a bunch of cash and then SOMEDAY you’ll be able to work less.

What a lie.

About a year ago, I took this message to heart and restructured my business to work less and make more. Today, I work no more than 25 –30 hours per week. Most weeks I take Friday’s off. I am more productive, less stressed

So, take one day off next week as a test. I wonder what would happen?