9-5 Is Out. Try The 1-6 Instead.
Pia Silva, Contributor
When are you most productive? In the morning? Afternoon? Late at night?
I was raised to covet the early morning hours. I’ve spent my whole life thinking I was more “accomplished” the earlier I woke up. I got this idea directly from my parents by living in a home where everyone was “up and at ‘em” by 6 am, sometimes earlier. Getting up at 8 am was sleeping in and made you lazy. Growing up, productivity only counted if it happened on the EARLY side of the day.
Fast forward to June 2017 when Steve and I booked a two month trip to Europe—with no concrete plans—to see how little we could work while still keeping our business going. We barely let people know we were gone, we booked Brandshrinks based on EST (even though we were six hours ahead), and we pushed ourselves to see if we could enjoy our trip and keep the lights on back home.
Each day, we woke up when we wanted, had a leisurely breakfast, spent four or five hours at a beach, did some reading, then had a relaxing lunch before heading back to our hotel room—usually between 4pm and 6pm—to start working for the day (the advantage of being at least 6 hours ahead of the US). After a few hours of work, we’d head for dinner. (It didn’t hurt that it’s still light out at 10 pm during the summer in Spain and Italy)
It was all very seamless. And surprisingly, after having spent a whole day relaxing and doing whatever we wanted, it became easier to sit down and work in the late afternoons. Despite appearances, we actually got a lot done. More, in fact, than usual. It really drove home for us, the point that we fill the time we have (It’s called Parkinson’s Law if you want to read more about it).
We called this realization “#SpainBrain.” Before returning home, we decided #SpainBrain is here for life.
Retrain Your Brain
The 40 hour work week is a construct—created in the late 19th century—that we’ve all just accepted as necessary. When it was created it was actually a relief for industrial workers at the time, but it’s slowly been distorted since, encroached upon by Wall Street traders and Silicon Valley bro-culture who say you have to constantly be on to make progress. You can recognize this distortion by the incessant chatter of “hustle” and “grind” and “no days off!” and the pride that seems to come with being sooo busy.
As an entrepreneur, you ultimately want freedom and flexibility, but what you end up with is the constant spinning of your wheels, lots of time wasted on inefficient activities, guilt for not doing enough, and a race to cross things off that ever-growing list.
It’s time to retrain ourselves to accept nothing less than #SpainBrain.
To achieve #SpainBrain , you have to approach your relationship with time and effectiveness differently. And that means rethinking what we’ve been taught our entire lives.
What if you could only work five hours a day? What would you need to do to make that happen if you had no other choice?
That’s exactly what Steve and I asked ourselves at the end of our vacation.
For most of us, it doesn’t matter when we work or how long it takes to finish. Working fewer hours doesn’t mean you’re getting fewer results. In fact, it could even mean that you’ll get better results because you’ll only be working in peak mental condition.
With this in mind, we told ourselves on the way home from Europe that we were only going to work from 1 pm to 6 pm, five days a week. That’s it. We were a little scared we’d get sucked back into working in the mornings, but we were committed.
I needed to do just three things when we got home to make it work:
- I needed to spend that 5 hours as productively as possible, doing things ONLY I can do for my business. That means outsourcing EVERYTHING humanly possible, and investing the upfront time needed to hand it off to someone else, including making a training video when needed. (Having a seriously BA virtual assistant on my team made this possible).
- I needed to be SUPER clear on my short and long-term objectives and EXACTLY what needed to get done each day, so I could hit the ground running at 1 pm sharp. This meant committing to putting time aside to plan each week and keeping a tight list of objectives that would push the needle forward toward my big goals.
- I needed to stay committed to my own goal to make this schedule work, and fight any urge to procrastinate on social media or by reading the NY Times online, my go-to time wasters.
A Total Mindset Shift
Now that I’ve lived #SpainBrain for seven months, I can’t imagine getting back into my old schedule. Yes, I have to be way more efficient and disciplined to work just five hours—it’s challenging—but it doesn’t make me lazy or less-than. In fact, more free time enhances the quality of my work and expands my mind to think of new, possibly better ways, to serve people.
Being committed to the three things I outlined above has shown me, clearly, that my eight-plus hour work days were really just five hour work days dragged out over eight hours. I was spending a total of three hours procrastinating, often because I just wasn’t clear on exactly what needed to get done, or doing things I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN could have been outsourced, but I was too controlling, or oddly, lazy, to take the time to outsource.
How many of us are wasting precious time “working?” How many 100-year-old constructs are holding us back?!
If you commit to #SpainBrain (and I hope you’ll join me!), understand you will be forced out of your comfort zone. You have to give up some control and trust others, and that is usually the hardest part for entrepreneurs who want everything done a certain way. This won’t always work out well, but stick with it, because it will change your life if you want it to.
The things we assume are just “the way things are” or “the right way to operate” often aren’t. Identifying our default thinking can be incredibly freeing, and it can also create space for new opportunities. With all this free time, I am spending time reading and thinking and learning new skills unrelated to my business, and surprisingly, they all end up helping me be more effective in my business anyway. For example, I took up singing lessons just for fun, but it’s actually helping me with my public speaking skills as well.
Now that I’ve seen the other side, I’m beginning to think these underlying assumptions about life, work, and business are invisible hands pulling us in directions we might not want to go. Instead, we can create new ones, and then MAKE them work—for ourselves. The possibilities are really, truly endless, and it’s got me rethinking everything. Come with me; it’s worth it.