Why Working Less Shouldn’t Be Your Only Goal (Transcript)

In this episode, I'm going to explain the pitfalls of trying to work less, why you might be making these mistakes, and how you can work to reframe your mindset and restructure your schedule to make sure that you're getting the most out of every hour you work all while enjoying the whole process.

This is a transcript of Work Less, Earn More, Episode 17. Listen to the episode here.

As we've worked to optimize our businesses so that we can earn more and work less, there is a dangerous pitfall that we can fall into. This mistake can steal our joy and force us to have to waste countless hours each week. In today's episode, I'm going to explain what this mistake is, why you might be making it, and how you can work to reframe your mindset and restructure your schedule to make sure that you're really getting the most out of every hour you work and enjoying the process to boot.

Growing up, my mom was really into healthy eating. She always wanted us to eat our vegetables and take our vitamins and she tried to feed us as much organic food as possible. Now, one thing that she always did to try to help us to eat healthier was to serve us our vegetables before our dinner. She would always put a giant salad in front of us and we couldn't eat our dinner until we had finished it.

And so as you can imagine, considering that I wasn't going to get my dinner and certainly wasn't going to get dessert until I got my way through that salad, I learned to put it down. I don't think that this was a bad thing because to this day I am a fantastic vegetable eater, but something that I've noticed is that this kind of eat your vegetables first mentality has carried over into a lot of other aspects of my life. Now I'm not sure whether this really stemmed from my mom forcing me to literally eat my vegetables first or whether it is a trait or tendency that I naturally have. My bet is that I already leaned that way, but then it was reinforced by my mom's habit of making me eat my vegetables first, but here's what I mean. In every aspect of my life, whenever there is work to be done and play that can be done, I always tend to focus on getting the work out of the way first before I spend time playing.

In general, this is a really good thing as you would expect. It means that I get a lot done both because I focus on getting the work done first, but also because I'm working towards some sort of a reward, whether that is dessert or whether that is some fun or relaxation that I'm looking forward to. As you know, the main idea behind this podcast is that we don't want work to overwhelm our lives. We want to focus on strategies that help us to achieve as much as possible with as little time and effort as we can, and this is so important to me because I don't want work to take over my life. I want to make sure that I've plenty of time left over to really enjoy life, to spend time with my family and to do the things that I truly love, but in my quest to work less and to prioritize the other aspects of life, not just work.

I often find myself trying to squash work down to take up as little of my time as I possibly can. So I do my work first, I try to get it done as quickly as possible so that I can go play. In some ways this is really good. It means that I have a lot of time left over to enjoy my life and it means that I definitely get my work done, but it also has its downsides. One of the biggest ones is that it causes me to have a mindset problem where I don't really enjoy working. In fact, I would even say that sometimes I detest working, which is such a shame because honestly I love what I do. I get to decide what I do every day. It's my own choice what I do and I am doing really good things that are helping a lot of people.

So it's fun work that is having an impact on the world and that's something that I should be grateful for and should be enjoying. But if my top priority is working as little as possible, then I can't help but see work as a negative thing that's keeping me away from the real joys of life. Not only is this unfortunate because it can cause me to not enjoy my work and to miss out on the joy that I could have in doing the work, but it's also a negative thing because it can cause me to do my work not as well. Because if I'm not really excited about my work and excited about that I get to work, then I'm not really going to bring all of my energy to the table and do the work as best as I can. And also this means that I'm essentially wasting several hours of every day.

Sure, those hours that I'm working are paying the bills, but they're hours of my life that I'm just not enjoying and that seems like an awful waste, especially considering how few hours we really have every day and every week. Work is such a good thing and I really want to be able to savor it more. First of all, work is a means to an end. It is something that we need to do in order to put food on the table and put a roof over our heads and anything that we have to do, we might as well enjoy. But second of all, I really think that there is joy to be found in the process because after all, that's really what life is. Life is doing the chores, life is doing the work, life is making things and getting things done and yes there is certainly time for relaxation and recreation and those things are fantastic as well.

If those are the only things that we see as good and we see work as unnecessary negative, then we're going to be missing out on the potential joy that we can get out of the work that we do every day and this really is so much bigger than the work that we do when we sit down at our desk and start typing on our computers because there are so many other types of work that we have to do. I'm sure that there are chores that you have to do in order to run your household. Maybe you have to take care of kids. Maybe you'll have to serve other people in other ways. I'm sure you probably have to pay your taxes and pay your bills. All of those things are work and if we are dreading all of those things, if we're trying to get all of them done as quickly as possible so that we can get onto real life, then we are missing out on so much potential joy.

A few months ago, and my dad told me a little story about his workout routine. Now, I didn't honestly know that my dad had any sort of workout routine, but he told me that at least recently he's been going to the gym and swimming on a regular basis. He started doing this because he wanted to make sure that as he's getting older, his body stays strong and particularly that his heart stays strong. And what he shared with me was that he had been going to the gym to get the benefits, but while he was there he felt like he really didn't have time. My dad loves what he does for work and he always fills his plate very full of different tasks and different projects. So his schedule is typically really busy. I really don't think that this is a bad thing for him because like I said, he loves what he does so much and he's accomplishing so much and anything less than him doing as much as he does, I think would really just be a waste of his time.

But he wanted to find some time to exercise, so he was squeezing it into his schedule, but he really didn't feel like he had time. So he would go to the gym and he would get in the pool and he would start swimming his laps and he had decided that he was going to spend, I'm not sure exactly how much time, but 30 minutes or 60 minutes each day on this and he was trying to swim as quickly as he could to get it over with as fast as possible. He wasn't really enjoying it because it was difficult. He hadn't been working out lately and he also was just stressed out by the fact that he was spending time working out when he felt like he had so many other things that he needed to get done. But my dad shared with me that after doing this for several weeks, he had a little epiphany and he realized that if he slowed down and focused more on enjoying the process, his workouts weren't going to take him any more time.

Rushing through the motions and stressing out about the fact that he wasn't working really wasn't helping him get back to his work any sooner since he had already decided to spend that set amount of time working out. So not only was he missing out on the joy that he could have in his exercise, he also was wasting time by speeding up time by trying to hurry through his workout. He realized that if he slowed down and really savored the moment, then he would have more time. He was going to spend that hour swimming in the pool one way or the other, but if he slowed down, then he could stretch out that hour and really enjoy it and get the most out of it.

In my own life, I see myself doing this all the time where I don't want to be spending as much time on a chore or a work task as I have to, and so I stress out about it. I try to rush through it and that winds up just making it take longer. Whereas if instead I was able to slow down and really savor it, I would actually have more time in my life because I wouldn't be hurrying through the time that I have. Not only is it a shame to be missing out on the joy that we could have and to be wasting this time, I also think that if we try to make work take up as little time as possible and then maybe end up disliking it, we will actually find our work a lot harder to do. The tension that we feel will slow us down and particularly if we're trying to do creative work like writing or recording a podcast, we're going to have a hard time coming up with good ideas and really letting the ideas flow through us.

In short, I think we'll be a lot more likely to experience writer's block. It's also going to be more difficult to create the results that we want or reach our goals. With our minds more closed off, we won't think as creatively and we won't see potential solutions or shortcuts that we could take to reach our goals faster. So we are going to take the slowest and hardest road and try to rush down that road. It will be unpleasant and it won't be expedient either. Stressing while we're working and trying to hurry through everything that we have to do is also just going to wear us out a lot more. It's really going to drain our energy both while we're in the office trying to get things done, but also outside of it. 

I think that this is one of the biggest problems with trying to hurry through our work and one of the areas where I see it has the most negative impact on my life. I find myself trying to get my work done as quickly as possible so that I can spend time with my kids, but because I'm trying to work as fast as I can, by the time I leave my office, I'm drained. I don't have the energy to be a fun mom and really do things with my kids. I just want to sit on the couch and read a book or watch Netflix and I'm not really there for my kids the way I want to be. On the other hand, I noticed that when I relax and I focus on enjoying my work, even if it ends up taking a little bit longer, I am such a nicer person and a better mom when I'm done with my work, which means that I'm winning both in the office and outside of it.

So finally, I want to wrap this episode up by sharing with you a few ideas for things that you can try doing, mindset shifts you can make, ways you can restructure your schedule, in order to be able to get your work done quickly, but not have this negative effect on your work and on your life. The first thing that you can try is to put your work in a box by creating clearly defined working hours and then seeing how much you can accomplish in the time that you've restrained yourself to. Now this is as opposed to seeing how fast you can get your work done. So instead of starting with a to do list and rushing through it and trying to get it done as quickly as possible, I'm saying set working hours for yourself. Maybe you'll do this by blocking them out in your calendar or with another method, it doesn't really matter, but set your working hours and then just see how much you can accomplish in those working hours that you've predefined.

Maybe you get through your entire to do list and you have time to do some extra fun projects that you're really excited about or maybe you don't quite get through your to do list. You can reschedule some of your non urgent items for another day because here's the thing about work: it is never ending. We're never going to get it all done. We're never going to check off everything on our to do list and have nothing else ever added to our to do list. Even if you get your to do list done today, there will be more things on it tomorrow, there'll be new projects you want to take on. There'll be new issues that crop up. We're never going to be done working and so trying to get our to do list done today isn't really going to accomplish anything particularly significant and I think that we can more easily have a much better mindset if we start by defining those working hours and then just working for that time, working fast, working slow, whatever is comfortable, whatever you are excited and energetic about, getting as much done as we can and then moving on to another priority like taking care of our kids or spending time on a hobby once those working hours are over.

The second thing that you could try, and I'll just start off by saying I wouldn't really advise this if you consider yourself to be a recovering workaholic, but for some people this will work really well. The second thing you can try is to spend some of your free time working on things that you don't have to do but just want to do. So yes, here I am suggesting that in some of your free time you choose to do more work. Now, not things that you feel like you have to do. I don't want you to add more things on your plate that you feel like you have to do. That is just going to turn you into a workaholic, make you feel like you're working all the time, make you feel more stressed out. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying identify some work projects that you're honestly excited about, that you want to work on, and then enthusiastically spend a little bit of your free time on those things. This can really help you to reframe your mindset and to see work as a more positive thing that you're choosing to do, not just something that you have to do that you want to get over with as quickly as possible.

Okay, and my third and final suggestion for how you can see work in a more positive light and not be so focused on just getting it done as quickly as possible is to work on your mindset. I have a few ideas for different ways that you can do this. First of all, focus on gratitude for your work. Work is a good thing that I'm sure if you think about it, you really are thankful for. You are choosing to do the work that you're doing. It's putting food on the table. It's putting a roof over your heads and I'm sure you'd much rather have your work than not have it, but sometimes we really have to consciously think about the fact that we are thankful for things in order to feel those gratitude feelings and to get the benefit out of them.

You could spend a little bit of time meditating each day on what you are grateful for or you could create a list of things that you're grateful for in your journal. The second way you can reframe your mindset is to look for the positives in your work. As you're doing your work, look for what is good about it. Look for what you're enjoying about it. Instead of always just focusing on the clock and “when will I be done” and trying to get things done as quickly as possible, really savor each moment. Think about why you want to do each task, what good each task will accomplish for you, and get the most out of it that you can. Another thing you can do is to choose intentionally to do work that you enjoy. There are all sorts of different things that we could spend our time working on.

I'm sure that in order to grow your business or serve your customers or increase your profits, there are many different things you could do, but as your own boss, whether that means you're the boss of your company or the boss of your life, you get to choose what you work on. So first of all, be intentional. Choose things you want to work on. But second of all, remind yourself that you chose it and remind yourself why you chose it. Also on the topic of you being the boss, remind yourself that you can take a break whenever you want. Nobody's forcing you to sit in your office and keep working on the thing that you're working on. If you're not feeling it, if you're not enjoying it, you don't have to do that thing right now. You can either reschedule it for another time or you can choose to not do it at all.

Nobody's forcing you to do this work and finally something that isn't very tangible but is very important, try to see work as the main course of your life, not just as that salad that you have to get through in order to get to the main course and eventually hopefully get to dessert, but instead see work as the main course. The real substance of living.

This episode has been brought to you by Startup Society. Startup Society is a group training program for aspiring online entrepreneurs. If you are someone who runs your own business or wants to get started with your business, but you want to make sure that you really focus on the tasks that will have the biggest impact on your business, that will grow it as quickly as possible and will increase your profits as effectively as possible, then Startup Society is a great place for you. Inside Startup Society, we work with you to figure out exactly what you need to focus on in order to get those results in your business as quickly and as easily as possible. If you're interested in learning more about Startup Society and becoming a member, just head to Gillianperkins.com and then click on join Startup Society in the upper right hand corner. You can also find that link in the show notes for this episode.

In next week's episode of the podcast, I'm going to be sharing with you this month's income report because this month will be over by that point and I will have all the numbers to share with you. So if you are interested in hearing about exactly how much my business earned this past month and how much I worked, then make sure you are subscribed to the podcast so that you don't miss that next episode. Also, I just want to let you know that I want this podcast to be as interactive as possible and definitely create content that really helps you so you can get in touch with us by going to Gillianperkins.com/podcast and clicking the get in touch button that will take you to a form where you can send us a message. You could send us your ideas for future episodes or any feedback that you have on past episodes. That's all for now, but thank you so much for joining me today. I'm your host Gillian Perkins, and until next week, stay focused and take action.

Sean McMullin