Reducing the hours I work - an experiment

I have been FASCINATED with the story of SpaceX and Elon Musk’s quest to set up a human civilization on Mars. Patrick Hollingworth is a fabulous man who uses the principles of mountaineering to help us navigate our present world of uncertainty and complexity, and he wrote his ‘most important ever’ blog last week. Thanks to Patrick’s blog, I have discovered a great resource right here, which explains SpaceX beautifully (I love how the author refers to it as a BFR Big F#@king Rocket) but if you don’t want to read the whole article, these are the exciting bits as far as I am concerned;

  1. Elon wants to send people to Mars as a kind of ‘life insurance policy for the species’.
  2. Right now, it would cost about $10 billion a person to get them there, which is cost prohibitive. He thinks around 1 million people are needed and thinks that $500,000 per person  is a realistic figure that enough people could afford (out of those who would actually want to go!).
  3. Late last year, they worked out how to make space travel more affordable by returning the rocket to Earth so it could be re-used.
  4. They have worked out other ways to reduce the cost per person, specifically by 1. getting more people in each rocket 2. Refueling the spaceships in orbit and 3. Manufacturing propellant on Mars (read the article for more on why these things can lower cost).  

If all goes according to plan, the first people will be going to Mars in 2025 (that’s not that far away!!). It will take 3 months to get there, but it will be fun, because people will be floating around and doing interesting things.

What does this have to do with working less hours a day??

Because with SpaceX they are looking at doing the impossible, and the way they are doing that is by working out how they can make it happen by simply viewing at things in various ways (eg refueling/re-landing rockets). Most people would say that it’s not doable, but they are already a fair way down the track! The cool thing about this approach is it requires you to look at things very differently (Patrick calls this emergent, where you tinker, influence and experiment with certain conditions and factors). If we stop viewing things the way we always have, and start experimenting a little more.. eg by saying ‘how could I work 30% to 50% less than what I am doing presently’ then just maybe you would work out a solution.

It reminds me of Ernest Rutherford’s quote; “We haven't got the money, so we'll have to think”.

How about we hack that, and say ‘we want to work x less hours every week, so we are going to have to think'?

But before we look out how, let’s consider why I want to reduce my working week. Most of you who know me, know that I love what I do, but there’s some other things that come into play;

  1. I want to spend more time with my kids.
  2. I want to hang out with my friends more (for a while now I have been primarily limiting coffee/lunch connections to work related ones).
  3. Someone very close to me has just completed treatment for breast cancer, and that definitely puts things into perspective (and I think working less is definitely healthier, particularly when it comes to stress levels).
  4. I have worked my butt off for a fair bit of time since returning from maternity leave five years ago and I feel it’s time to try a different approach.
  5. I want to explore more creative and personal projects (there are a ton of them in my head, but they are require commitment and time).
  6. I feel that by working less, I have more energy, enthusiasm and creativity to invest with my clients.
  7. I love getting up later than 5am (as a morning person, I also like getting up early and being super productive in the blissful quiet of that time of day, but want this to be the exception not the rule).
  8. With summer coming up, I want to spend more time outdoors.
  9. I see this as a great experiment that I can share with others, regardless of the outcome.

This last point is really all I needed to say, isn’t it? This is my year of no dogma, and a big part of that is doing what I feel like doing, rather than what other people think I should do (without being a complete prat about it). This feels right!

How do I plan to do that?

Firstly my productivity has been supercharged since reading and adapting to Dermot Crowley’s Smart Work structure just over a month ago, and I am presently working through these Ted Talks on the subject.

I am prioritizing what I am doing and focusing on only one or two work areas at a time. I am also in the fortunate position of having sowed a lot of seeds, which will come to fruition in the next six months (but for now, I have some space; another good reason to lessen the workload now; because I can!).

Finally, for the first time ever, I am offering group coaching, which is something I have always wanted to do, but haven’t ever made happen. It follows on from my recent revelation that I love working with over 45’s who want to change things in their career world (and maybe work less hours too!). Because of the way it’s set up, I can charge a more affordable price point than the standard one on one partnership (even though it still includes one on one coaching). It is funny, as soon as I decided I would actually do this, there are already some people interested! 

Let me know if you would like to find out more; the 10 people who sign up to my pilot program (starting in December) will receive some great value as a thank you for being my first!

But really, I am just changing the way I think about my work overall, and playfully experimenting with different approaches to condensing the time. And let’s face it, this is not actually rocket science! (groan). Who knows what will come of it; deciding it’s possible is simply the first step.

This is an experiment, and like SpaceX, there is no guarantee that the experiment will be a success. But I am going to have fun giving it a go, and I am in good company too; check out this article on the paddle board company who operates a five hour work day or this one, where Amazon is piloting 30 hour work weeks for selected employees (and yes, they get paid less). A study conducted by the University of Melbourne earlier this year found that over 40’s work better when their workweek is reduced to three days.

I am also keen to hear from anyone who is going through any kind of change in their work habits. It would be great to share the journey! How often do we keep doing things the same way, because we can't give ourselves permission to do things differently, just because we want to?

Posted on October 4, 2016 .