Is It Possible to Work Less Than 40 Hours A Week and Still Build Something Great?

Elon Musk

Elon Musk
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We often hear of the benefits of working less: our body is naturally wired to work in short bursts and when we give our mind room to breathe we generate new ideas and connections. We are not always measured by the widgets we can make, so does it make sense that our working hours are more inspired by the industrial age than the information age?

Every week we come across blog posts and essays from workers who have claimed to dramatically cut their hours. Metalab founder Andrew Wilkinson writes in Pando Daily about making the transition from working 80-hour days to less than 40:

Paradoxically, the more I let go, the more things seemed to take off. Short workdays forced me to focus on the important stuff instead of dicking around in my inbox, and I quickly learned to delegate the day-to-day. I started working smart instead of working hard.

Developer and entrepreneur Kyle Bragger wrote about a similar effect:

What did The Hustle™ accomplish? I gained weight. I wasn’t spending enough time with my (now) wife. I felt like shit. I began to resent my work, and the work I was producing clearly wasn’t my best. I started cutting corners. I went from a mindset of shipping with quality and integrity to “when is this going to be over?”

Nowadays, I’m working 4-day weeks, and doing no more than an hour or two of intense work at a time. I take a lot of walks. I’ve lost weight. I’m happier. My wife is happier. I’m more present. And most importantly:

I’m doing the best work of my life.

Yet we still come across other entrepreneurs or creatives that pride themselves as overworked. Not everyone who works long hours is a trail blazer. But it can seem like every trail blazer works long hours. A 2012 profile of Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk offers a glimpse into this mindset:

Freeing mankind from the scourge of carbon, not to mention its terrestrial shackles, has taken a toll on Musk’s personal life. In August he finalized his divorce from his second wife, the actress Talulah Riley. He’s had one vacation in four years. This summer he took his five boys—twins and triplets—to Maui with his family. “I think the time allocated to the businesses and the kids is going fine,” says Musk. “I would like to allocate more time to dating, though. I need to find a girlfriend. How much time does a woman want a week? Maybe 10 hours?”

To truly change the world do we need to put in vacation-less years like Musk? Or should we concentrate all of our work in 35-hour weeks like the developers above?

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Innovation Requires Failure

Falling by Juan Pablo Bravo from The Noun Project

Falling by Juan Pablo Bravo from The Noun Project

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman famously said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Failure isn’t fatal, yet many creatives get caught up trying achieve perfection, often at the expense of innovation.

The author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Dorie Clark, urges us to stop believing that we have to be perfect:

Innovation of any sort entails risk and trying new things — and that mandates failure.  A 100% success rate implies you’re not doing anything new at all… It’s not so much that you’re creating something (such as a product or service) that failed; it’s that you’re steadily improving a series of drafts.

Recognize that innovation requires failure. As paradoxical as it may seem: if you’re failing, you’re doing something right.

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The Right Way to Ask for What You Want

Designed by Till Teenck for the Noun Project

Designed by Till Teenck for the Noun Project

According to Creativity For Sale author Jason Surfrapp, “90% of people are afraid to ask for things.” True or not, he’s dead on about the fact that we don’t get what we don’t ask for — including the raise, the sale, or even the date. But simply asking for what we want isn’t enough. In a piece on Inc., Surfrapp suggests that asks be made with creativity, confidence, and effort:

Creativity: When it comes to selling something online, your product or service most likely has competition. Someone else is already asking people to buy, so that alone should give you the validation and confidence to ask. But, you should also think about a unique or creative way you can package your ask so it stands out from the crowd.

Confidence: When it comes to relationships, confidence is key. No one wants to talk to, let alone go on a date with, someone who has zero confidence. But just like asking for things, the more you work to build your confidence and the more practice you put in, the more results you’ll see.

Effort: No one has ever put in an insane amount of effort for something and not gotten some value out of it. The more you ask for things, in the right ways, the better you’ll get at it. And the better you get at asking, the amount of times you hear “yes” will increase.

Here’s your challenge: decide to make an ask (one that you’ve been avoiding or too afraid to bring up) and do it in a creative, confident way that shows effort. Then repeat.

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Kill The Dreaded Status Meeting

Designed by Julien Deveaux from The Noun Project

Designed by Julien Deveaux from The Noun Project

We’ve all been to the notorious status meeting, where in a round-robin fashion everyone says what they’re working on. According to research by Atlassian, you’re highly likely to daydream during this meeting, do other work during this meeting or just miss it entirely.

Author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pittampalli, suggests that in an effort to skip the status meeting and get right to work, that we kill the status meeting altogether, and only have meetings that support a decision that has already been made:

If a decision maker needs advisement pre-decision, he should get it from others via one-on-one conversations. Only after a preliminary decision is made can a meeting be convened. A meeting might be necessary for either of two reasons:

Conflict: The relevant stakeholders can debate the decision, propose alternatives, suggest modifications, or have concerns addressed.  The decision is ultimately resolved.

Coordination: If a decision demands complex collaboration from different people, teams or departments, stakeholders can convene to coordinate an action plan.

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Not Every Side Project Needs to Make Money

rollingpin

Rolling Pin designed by Julien Deveaux from the Noun Project

In an interview with Explore Create Repeat, graphic designer Adam J. Kurtz talks about the importance of having a side project:

I do think it’s important for everyone to do “things” on the side. Regardless of your chosen profession, career, or job, I hope that everyone enjoys other hobbies and activities and hopefully you have the resources to take them as far as you’d like to. If you love baking, bake a whole lot of cakes sometime and Instagram that sh*t. If you’re super knowledgeable about pizza and love bringing friends to your favorite spots (like Scott Wiener, who I met recently) then maybe you start a pizza tour.

For makers, side projects are not about generating extra money or developing new skills, they simply cannot stop creating. For Kurtz, making stuff is his life, his therapy and his hobby. It’s a way to experiment and combine multiple interests without an end in mind. When you work full-time in a creative field, sometimes you need to be reminded about the joys of simply creating. Kurtz reminds us that “everyone can do anything, we just forget.”

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Why Innovation Starts With Enthusiasts

what-if-revised

What’s the secret to good business? “Create more value than you capture,” says Tim O’Reilly, the entrepreneur and deep thinker behind O’Reilly Media.

A key figure in the rise of the open-source and maker movements, O’Reilly knows a thing or two about launching world-changing ideas. That’s why we interviewed him for our new book, Make Your Mark.

Here’s a glimpse of O’Reilly’s take on how creatives can build businesses that really make an impact:

Where do you think great business ideas come from?

Innovation starts with enthusiasts. The reason why it starts with enthusiasts is that they are focused on the right priority, which is the change they want to make in the world, versus say, a business idea that will get funded. Their perspective is: How cool would it be if we could all have our own computers? How cool would it be if I could put up information for free on the Internet and anybody could access it? How cool would it be if I could build an assistive robot for my grandmother?

What should entrepreneurs be thinking about if they really want to make an impact?

Aaron Levie of Box tweeted something great about Uber recently. He said, “Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.”

Being able to see the world in a fresh way is the essence of being an entrepreneur. You have an idea about the way the world ought to be. You have a theory about why and how you are going to connect the dots.

Read the full interview with O’Reilly—and 20 more insights from creative visionaries—in our new book on building a creative business: Make Your Mark.

Bonus: Use promo code “MAKEURMARK” to get 20% off pre-orders through Nov 17th, 2015.

Get  “Make Your Mark” now –>

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Authentic Ways to Network

Network by XOXO from The Noun Project

Network by XOXO from The Noun Project

So you want to build make some connections in your creative community? Fantastic. But if your first instinct is to attend a networking event and distribute business cards, think again – traditional networking aka “dirty networking” actually makes people feel physically dirty and is an ineffective way of making a name for yourself.

Building social currency is about being honest and authentic, and showing that you value others. In their Social Capital Building Toolkit, Harvard University researchers Thomas H. Sander and Kathleen Lowney, share some high impact and more natural ways to build social capital, including:

Food/Celebrations. ie. host a start-up open house or celebrate your agency’s anniversary.

Joint activity around common interest or hobby. ie. organize a team of friends or colleagues and play agency ball.

Doing a favor for another. ie. help another company move into their new office or volunteer space for a meetup.

Discussion of community issues. ie. talk about poor trash pickup or organize a town-hall about bike lanes.

Undertaking joint goal. ie. create a meetup or collaborate on bringing an event to your city.

Intentional relationship building (“one on ones”). ie. set up coffee dates with people you want to know.

To enjoy all the benefits of social currency, you first have to build it. Then be patient and let your relationships mature organically.

[pdf link]

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