January 2012: Stop Working Late

My first monthly experiment is going to be a big one. I’m going to stop working late.

I have a nasty habit of working way too much. I think it started about 12 years ago. I worked at a startup where most of the company worked 80 hours a week. The company culture was pretty intense, and putting in a ton of hours was a matter of pride for a lot of us. Of course, all work and no play isn’t sustainable. I got burnt out and quit.

I’ve been running my own company for the last 8 years. Of course, part of what made entrepreneurship attractive to me was the flexibility. At least, that was the idea. I didn’t have to work crazy hours…unless I wanted to.

So, how has it worked out? Not well.

My Average Workday

I don’t do the same thing everyday, so it’s hard to say what’s “average” for me. Some days I have meetings at clients’ offices or lunches with colleagues. Most days, though, I’m in my home office, staring at a computer screen, from 6 or 7 AM until 9 PM. Sometimes later. Sometimes I’ll work for days without stopping. “Whatever it takes” is our unofficial motto.

Things have been especially tough lately. We had a ton of projects that we wanted to wrap up before the end of the year. I’ve been pulling all-nighters every week, skipping exercise, missing social events. Worst of all, I feel like I haven’t been spending quality time with my family. My life has been completely out of balance lately. That’s why I’m starting this site, to take back my sanity and build healthier habits that are more in line with the lifestyle I want to live.

The Rules

Each experiment I do will have a set of rules I must live by for the entire month. The rules will be geared toward building better habits. My thinking is that if I do X (something good) for a month, it’ll just become a habit. In this case, I’m sick of working so damn much, so I’m just going to completely eliminate that option.

  1. No working after 5:00 PM
  2. No working on weekends
  3. I can start my work-day as early as I want (more on this later)

That’s it. Pretty simple. I’m just going to keep normal business hours. I won’t have the option of working late, no matter what. Even if it means missing a deadline. Even if it means I won’t meet some expectation I’ve set with a client, I’m walking out of my office at 5:00 and closing the door until morning.

I’m keeping the “whatever it takes” motto and applying it to a better set of priorities.

Hopes & Fears

For your sake, I hope you’ve been reading this and thinking “wow, I can’t relate to this guy”. I hope you don’t have a problem with work-life balance. I know a lot of my friends can relate to this. We talk about ‘what it would be like’ if we worked 9-5. The way we talk makes it sound like such a fantasy, like such a remote possibility.

Here’s what I really believe: balance is just a choice. We either choose balance or we choose chaos.

If balance is a choice, why not make it a rule?

One thing I’m worried about is that I’ve taken about two weeks off for the holidays. I get about a hundred emails a day, on average. So, when I come back from a vacation, I usually have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of emails I have to deal with. By limiting the box of time available, I’m expecting a bit of overflow.

I’m expecting to not have time for everything I think I need to do. Honestly, that idea scares me, but I think it’s going to result in a shift in priorities. If I only have enough time to deal with 20% of what’s on my plate, I’ll be forced to deal with the most important things first. I’ll be forced to make better choices.

The Best Part

I’m really looking forward to the improvements to my non-work life. The things I really miss doing that make life so wonderful.

Since I won’t be working after 5:00, I’m excited about spending more quality time with my wife, about evening runs with my dog, exploring the great restaurants in our neighborhood, catching a movie or two, and cooking some tasty food. Those are the things that make me happiest, and soon I’ll have plenty of time for them.

Hopefully I don’t get fired by too many clients. 😉 Either way, I can’t wait.

 

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Comments

  1. I’m curious to see how you go with this one… how is it so far?

    I’m taking on a similar approach and so far so good… it’s going to be harder though as the year starts to ramp up.

  2. This is a very inspirational post. Being an entrepreneur myself I can totally relate. This is something so many people can benefit from.

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