Elon Musk

Elon Musk

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?

  • Petar Subotic

    Instead of efficient, I’d rather be effective 🙂

    • David Carcamo

      Sounds like a cute response but before you make yourself look stupid I think you need to look up “efficient” in the dictionary… Synonyms
      effective – capable – effectual – able

      • http://GottaHaveGoodMusic.com Joshua Bull

        Well that escalated quickly.

      • David Carcamo

        lol, gotta nip it in the butt before it gets all trollesque in here.

      • OmegaSupreme

        To be fair he had the smiley there so your hackles should not have been raised 😉 In any case I understood him to be suggesting that you might be efficient at doing the wrong thing i.e churning out crap but to be effective implies that you are achieving your goals.

      • David Carcamo

        “I understood him to be suggesting that you might be efficient at doing the wrong thing” thats exactly what set of my angry wrath of destruction, they are baseless assumptions unfortunately attached to the Hustler/WorkHard view by the people that prefer the 4DayWorkWeek view.

        If you are Hustling but NOT being efficient/effective its not the Hustle thats to blame, its you.

      • Petar Subotic

        What set of my cuteness was the use of word “same” as in:

        “can do the same work in less hours”

        I believe the ultimate goal of the article is to identify ways to do better work not same.

      • Petar Subotic
  • http://travelingreporter.com/ Traveling Reporter

    Isn’t it all about making sure to hire smart people, who carry out what you can not, and haven’t time to? (And, to some extent, making sure you can afford to hire those people…)

  • Sean Blanda

    Perhaps, but it is worth noting that the two writers quoted above are both developers.

  • Sean Blanda


  • Mark Guay

    I’d like to see how those who cut hours actually kept to their schedule…did they just finally prioritize and make a schedule as opposed to just going with the flow and taking up too much time?

  • http://www.facebook.com/melanie.esham Melanie Esham

    Or pick a career that lets you love what you do and work as you want. Oh…and learn how to balance a checkbook & plan a budget…. seems business math put me on a better path to achievement than algebra ever could.

  • Shaun

    Absolutely – I feel very strongly about the fact that we need to work less hours in order to become MORE productive. We have a whole book and site devoted to the very idea at http://www.changehours.com

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