At the beginning of 2021 I hit a breaking point. We made some changes to the team at the end of 2020 that put a lot of work back on my plate and I found myself working 7 days a week during December 2020 and early January 2021.
Not exactly the way I’d planned to start the year.
I was having a mild panic attack thinking about all the work to do, without much hope of things changing so I just stopped. It was the morning of January 21st.
I pulled out a notebook and started writing…
At the top of the page I wrote the question, “What do I want?”
Four filled pages later I had a new operating system for myself and for the business that can be summed up by the eight words in the title of this article—The less I do, the more I make.
This is the first in a series of articles and podcasts where I’m sharing the journey from 7-day work weeks to working significantly less, while building an even bigger business and making more money.
Easier Said Than Done
The first thing to get real about is that the process I’m talking about is easier said than done. I’d read a thousand articles and dozens of books about how to multiply results while slashing time invested.
I can tell you all about 80/20, delegation, and the importance of creating systems to clone yourself. I’m guessing you know about those things, too.
Turns out knowing and doing are different.
So I write this with the knowledge that the hard work for you is translating what you’ll learn here into practice in your world. My hope is that by sharing the shifts that took me from knowing to doing will give you a real-life demonstration that you can adapt and model.
The Mind Shift
The beginning of this process is far less about new skills than it is about shifting your thinking.
Until you shift your thinking about the link between your time and effort, and your output, all the skills in the world won’t help you.
Here’s some of what I started writing in my journal…
I want a life that’s not consumed by business. I want a successful business that serves people that’s easy, and fun and lucrative. It’s good to have money and resources so that I can do good things with it, but I don’t want it to be the 100% focus.
I’ve added and added and added to my plate thinking I needed more. I don’t. I need less. It’s time to get unscheduled. SERIOUSLY!
Less is more, you need space.
For me, those four pages of journal notes started with the question “What do I want?” But the words that started flowing next were a laundry list of precisely what I didn’t want. I ended up with a list of non-acceptables.
This turned out to be an important first step.
I’ve known for years, with varying degrees of clarity, what I thought I wanted—a business that gave me a lot more freedom and a lot more money. I think most every entrepreneur gets that.
But I needed to first deal with my current reality and all of the things that had emerged quietly over time to block my path.
Key Lesson: First, get clear on your non-acceptables.
Here’s my list, feel free to steal anything that’s in your way, too:
- No more 7 day work weeks…if God created the world in six days and took the seventh day off to rest, I must either be arrogant or stupid (maybe both) to think I can work seven days, week after week, with no rest.
- No more late nights
- No more doing of the work…not my role
- No more random networking
- No more Instagram, Clubhouse and Twitter
- No more content consumption until evening except for reading books in the morning
- No more unplanned weeks and days
- No more B.S. – Business Stress
Building that list cleared space to be able to articulate what I really want. It’s tempting to attack the business problems and try and solve those first, but I’d tried that approach and it never worked.
This time I was clear that the first transformation, and most important transformation had to be my own time. At the end of the day, my use of time is my experience of the business.
Key Lesson: If you don’t transform your time, nothing else changes.
The Time Rules
I started writing out my new “time rules”…
I want my mornings to work like this:
In the afternoons I want the following:
Fridays…I’m off. Free day, except for podcast recording.
Record podcasts all on one Friday a month, finish by 3:30pm.
Limit networking to 1 strategic connection call per week—focus on quality over quantity.
After writing the list and sitting for about 20 minutes just contemplating the size of the shift I it represented my mind started to focus on one of the most dangerous words you’ll face as an entrepreneur…
Those three little letters have scuttled more entrepreneurial dreams, because the truth is, if you knew how, you’d have already done it.
I didn’t know how to transform all of those non-acceptables into the experience of business that I really wanted. If I’d have known how, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now.
But there is a hack when you don’t know how…
Don’t Worry About How, Just Decide
“How” is a trap. Avoid it at all costs.
Instead decide and do.
For me that meant, deciding I would just implement the time rules…immediately. I typed them up and emailed them to my assistant and my Program Advisor at Strategic Coach (for accountability).
I made the decision on a Wednesday and it immediately felt great (and I mean immediately, in that moment, a weight was lifted).
The following Saturday I didn’t work.
I haven’t worked a Saturday since.
I didn’t know how to do, I just did it.
Then I decided that 6 pm would be my daily work cutoff. Done.
And, I needed some thinking time during the week to think strategically, so I decided I would get up early Monday, Wednesday and Friday, work from 5 am to 6:45 am. Then, once my wife was off to work and the kids were off to school, I would take a walk in the woods for an hour from 8 am to 9am.
That was actually the most challenging. Having spent the first half of my career in a traditional company with traditional office hours, I had to break some well worn habits and face a little fear about not being “on duty” at 8 am.
Again, that’s the power of doing vs. “howing”…I woke up the morning of the first walk, put on workout clothes instead of work clothes, and that set things in motion. I was committed.
Decisions and Constraints
A lesson I understood, but failed to really apply is the truth that decisions and constraints are what ultimately give you freedom.
You first have to decide what about your business is no longer acceptable, and decide what you want your day-to-day experience of the business to look like.
Then you have to decide that you have the power to shape your own use of time You do have the power, you always have, but exercising that power goes against years of programming. The good news is that you don’t need years of learning or development or even therapy to make the shift, you make it in an instant by deciding to.
Once you decide to make the shift, you’ll be confronted with “how” and the answer is to act, to do. The way you start acting is by putting constraints on your time that eliminate your non-acceptable and begin to bend your time towards what you want.
This is the first in a series of articles I’ll be writing on this transformation. What I’ve laid out here is the genesis of transformation, but truly living into “The Less I Do the More I Make” as a way of operating will require many more changes.
I’ll be back to share what I’ve learned applying the idea to business development, our team, our offerings, and how we operate.
P.S. Here’s the companion podcast episode:
How to Radically Free Your Time and Improve Your Business