I was talking with my friend Brent from ugurus recently and he said something that struck me hard. It went something like:
I figure if I can’t do my work in 35 hours a week I’m probably doing someone else’s job – Brent Weaver
If you have a few employees that’s a great way to think of your work. If it’s just you, then everything is your job. Maybe you can hire out your bookkeeping, but marketing, new product development, estimating, getting office supplies, and a myriad of other things are still in your job description.
Let’s modify what he said to suit the solo business owner.
If I can’t do my work in 35 office hours a week, I’m not being focused enough with my time.
To often a business owner works longer hours instead of smarter hours. They substitute a focused planned week for a week with crazy hours. They let that crazy hour week cut in to family time. They don’t date their spouse anymore.
They tell themselves that it’s only for a season, but they look back 5 or 10 years later and it’s still the same. They work crazy hours. They let volume of work take the place of smart work.
Here is where your boundaries come in to place.
Boundaries are the rules you run your business by. They’re the rules you live your life by. By having these rules decided in advance you can run your business smarter.
They’re like that 35 hour rule above. When you realize you’re working 40 hours, you know that something has to change because you’re not being effective.
One of my rules is that I only go out to speak or to a networking event once a week. We don’t hire a babysitter for this either so if my wife has something then I don’t go speaking. Recently this meant that I had to cancel a speaking engagement on fairly short notice.
Yes I got called some not so nice names, but by sticking with my boundaries I let my wife know what I value.
I did a podcast on this canceling a speaking engagement. Go watch and meet one of my kids.
To build your boundaries you need to define your ideal week. For me that means I only take calls or record podcasts with guests on Tuesdays. That leaves me 3 days a week to work on client work. Friday’s is all about coaching my existing mentoring clients.
Another one of my boundaries is that I only let Instagram on my phone. All other social media platforms are off of it. Along with that is my rule about putting my phone away in a drawer when I’m at home. Then I’m not tempted to keep pulling it out of my pocket to check it.
For work it means that I only allow myself to check Twitter and Facebook in a single short window every day. Then I block the sites and get down to doing my work.
[Tweet “I will no longer substitute lots of work hours for smart work hours”]
By having these boundaries firmly in place I have large swaths of time when I can’t be interrupted. I can use this time to develop new products. I can write hard stuff and read. I can code without being pulled away every 20 minutes.
These boundaries help force me to do the hard work that needs doing. I can’t dip in to Twitter for a second to distract myself from what I should be doing.
If you’re working more than 8 hours a day and not getting all your work done, you’re not being productive. Don’t fool yourself. You’re substituting smart work for lots of hours.
Stop substituting lots of work hours for focused work hours. If you can focus not only will you get more done with less time but the work you do will be much higher quality.
photo by: brickwares