Did you know that Americans work 50% more than people in France, Italy and Germany?
We also get dramatically less vacation time; Western Europeans get, on average, 2 months of vacation time per year. Here in America, we’re lucky if we get 2 weeks.
What gives? Why are so many of us addicted to work?
I started asking myself this question a few days ago. After spending an enormous amount of time working during this past month, I’m taking some time off to relax and visit with family. And, two days of driving across the country is a great way to slow down enough to think about things.
You know what I’ve discovered?
That I want to work less.
I love what I do, but the fact is that I do it too much. I have a Dreams List that only has one thing (yes, one thing!) checked off. I have a great book idea that I’ve been sitting on for months because I’ve been too busy to start it.
Are you nodding your head in recognition? You’ve probably gone through the same thing at some point. Maybe you’ve got your own Dreams List, but no idea when you’ll be able to slow down enough to actually do some of the things on that list. Or maybe you want to work less so you can spend more time at home with your family.
But how? How in the heck can we possibly work less?
I asked myself that very same question yesterday. And that’s when I realized that if I wanted to work less, I was going to have to create a plan. Working less won’t just happen unless I make it happen. That means: strategy.
Strategy #1: Use the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 (also called Pareto’s Principal) rule is fairly straightforward. It means that most of the time, a small portion of our efforts (the 20%) produces the greatest results (80%). Theoretically, if we devote focused time to that 20%, we’ll get the greatest results in less time.
The opposite also holds true. Often we spend 80% of our time and energy on tasks that will only give us 20% (or less) payback.
So how can we use this principal to work less?
Well, everyone’s situation is different. But we need to start by identifying those areas where we’re most productive, the 20%, and then cut out the distractions and time wasters.
I know, easier said than done, right?
Try these tips:
- When you’re working and you don’t realize time is passing because you’re having so much fun, chances are you’re in your 20% zone. Try to do more of this type of work and less of something else.
- If you catch yourself working on “urgent” tasks, or tasks you’re not good at doing, chances are you’re doing work that drains time and energy from you and gives back very little. These are the tasks that you should stop doing, or delegate to someone else.
- When you work on something that makes you cranky or want to complain, you’re probably in your 80% zone. These tasks need to go unless you know, without a doubt, that they’re contributing to the bigger picture of following your dreams.
- Any work that makes you smile and feel good is probably in your 20% zone. Do more of this and less of something else.
Strategy #2: Trim Expenses
Many people work a lot because they have wants and needs that must be met. But if we have fewer wants and needs, then we don’t need to earn as much to meet them. We can work less, earn less, and be even happier.
- Start decluttering your life and home. The fewer possessions you have, the less complicated your life is going to be. You can also use the 80/20 Rule here too. Chances are 20% of your possessions give you 80% of your pleasure and satisfaction. Identify those things that really matter, and get rid of the rest.
- Once you have fewer things you won’t need such a big home. Moving to a smaller home means you’ll have a smaller mortgage and lower monthly bills.
- Do you really need cable TV? Many people have cancelled their cable lately; this can save hundreds of dollars (or more) per year. Look at every monthly expense you have and honestly assess whether it brings you joy. The fewer financial obligations you have, the less you’ll need to earn to maintain your standard of living.
- Do you really need a nice car? Cars have become a serious status symbol in our country, but the fact is that they have one purpose: to get us where we need to go. Considering selling your car (with its huge monthly payment) and downsizing to an older model that you can own free and clear. Not having a car payment is awesome. You could also think about going to a car-free lifestyle. Tammy over at Rowdy Kittens has an awesome ebook that will teach you how to do this.
Strategy #3: Give Yourself Deadlines
When I have a ton of projects to do and very little time to do them all, it is amazing how much I can get accomplished in a short amount of time. But when I’m not under tight deadlines, it takes me forever sometimes to get my work done. And it’s not just me; many people report the same phenomenon.
We can recreate this all the time with a kitchen timer. Set a timer for 60-90 minutes to finish a project. When the timer goes off that’s it- you can’t keep working on it. You might be surprised at how fast you’ll get your work done using this method.
Strategy #4: Look at Your Time
Do you know how much time per day you spend checking email? Going back and forth between tasks? Running errands?
Most of us (myself included) have no idea how much time we spend doing regular things like checking email and making phone calls. But we can’t manage our time if we don’t have any idea what we’re doing with it.
I can tell already that I’m going to be using several of these strategies in my own life to work less.
For instance, I’m going to cut down to a 4-day work week. And I’m definitely going to use a timer to manage my daily projects.
What about you? Do you dream of working less? Any tips or suggestions on how to get there? If so, I’d love to hear them!