Monday, August 21, 2006

Hours in a Week

I guess because of something I posted, there are "rumors" that I go home at 5:00 PM and don't work. Let me just say: For the most part that's true.

Here are my thoughts on working for a living and what's reasonable. Take it or leave it.

First, and most importantly:

You have to balance your work and your life. And, just like everything else in life, this balance changes over time. It changes as you get older, it changes as your job evolves, and it changes as your personal life evolves.

"The balance" is different for everyone, so I can't say that you should do what I do. But I CAN say that working 16 hours a day is bad for your health, bad for your business, and bad for your personal life. If you're working those kind of hours, things are very un-balanced.

If you get in the habit of working too much, it feeds on itself and you feel that you can't get out: you can't change the way things are.

That's not true. Just decide to change. You can make it happen.

Second, let's look at how many hours are reasonable.

I'll start by saying that the 40 hour week is silly and not much of a starting place. It is the result of arbitrary government decisions, union negotiations, and lots of things you had nothing to do with. So where do we start?

In the U.S. today it is very reasonable to show up for work at 8 AM and leave around 5 PM. If you make the departure 6 PM because you're the boss, that's still reasonable. If you have a meeting for lunch, or work through lunch, that counts as working time, not time off. Thus, if you work 8-6 with no time off, that's 50 hours/week for the five-day work week.

Alternatively, if you work a solid 8-5 and put in the odd hour in the early morning or the evening, you still come up with a 50 hour week.

Working a few hours on the weekend brings this to 52-55 hours without really straining yourself or interfering with your family life.

Therefore, I believe working 50-55 hours a week is very reasonable as a business owner.

If you work 12 hours/day x seven days, that's 84 hours. That's not reasonable.

I try very hard to keep my hours under 50/week.

When I was a sole proprietor, I never scheduled an appointment before 9:00 AM. And I made sure I never planned to work after 4:30 PM, so I could be home by 5. I did work and hour or so each evening. But I've never done the workaholic 60-70-80 hour weeks.

Even now that we're a five-person shop, I work 8-5 because my service manager wants me to be a good example for the staff. Otherwise, I'd still be 9-430!

Because I am religious about putting my hours into our practice management tool, I can accurately report the hours I actually work each week. If I'm drafting a blog post at 6:00 AM on the patio while having my morning coffee, that goes into PSA tool. Same with paperwork on the weekend.

Here's the breakdown for calendar 2006 so far:

3 Weeks in range <= 40 hours = 8.82%

8 Weeks in range 41-45 hours = 23.53%

7 Weeks in range 46-50 hours = 20.59%

8 Weeks in range 51-55 hours = 23.53%

7 Weeks in range 56-60 hours = 20.59%

1 Weeks in range 61-65 hours = 2.94%

0 Weeks in range 66 + hours = 0.00%

As you can see, I've had three weeks with less than 40 hours. Two of those were in Europe, so that counts for something. ;-)

This would have been five weeks, but I spent the last two Saturdays painting our new offices with my daughter.

About 1/3 of my weeks are in the range of 45 hours or less. Just over half of my weeks are under 50 hours, and just over 75% are under 55 hours. The one week over 60 hours was a travel week, teaching seminars for myself and a training company. In fact, almost every week with greater than 55 hours was a travel week.

I'm not dismissing travel weeks in any way. They are time away from the family, time away from normal routine, and time away from the office. They're actually pretty darn un-balancing!


Concluding Thoughts

Working reasonable hours -- 50 or less -- is possible. It's also beneficial to your personal and professional success.

When you're trapped in the workaholic environment, it's hard to see a way out. But remember that you're the boss.

In my next Relax Focus Succeed newsletter, I'll discuss "Escaping from the Workaholic Environment." If you're interested in following this thread, you can subscribe for free at

Now I'm going to get in the hot tub . . .

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