Don't Work Long Hours, Work Efficient Hours

"In your Startup Therapy podcast, you guys often talk about having worked 80-100 hour weeks for decades. Now you're saying that working those long hours was a huge waste of time. How can a startup get big things done if they don't put in insane hours?"

February 24th, 2020   |    By: Wil Schroter

Let me first admit: I am a recovering long-hour champion.

For nearly 3 decades, if you asked me how many hours I work, I would just say "All of them." I wore it as a badge of honor. For almost 20 years it never occurred to me that you could drive to or from work in daylight. For my first three years of my startup career I didn't see my family or celebrate Christmas.

Now let me admit what a colossal flipping waste of energy that was.

Yes, I created great startups and had some success. Yes, a lot of that "hard work" was necessary. But now, with the benefit of history and having watched thousands of startups go from zero to something, I've come to learn something:

Those long hours were a symptom of inefficiency, not a default badge of honor that should be celebrated without question.

Are You Suggesting That We Don't Need to Work Long Hours?

Hell no! Sometimes things just take lots of hours to get done — and that's fine.

Often it's just the two of us fighting back-to-back day and night to build something great and the only way to make up for a lack of people and money is just to work more hours. I respect that fully.

Where it falls off is when people equate "lots of hours" to the assumption that those hours were efficient and well spent.

Longer Hours are the Enemy of our Peak Hours

When we work long hours our first question should be, "What could I have done in less time?" Every extra hour we put in has a compounding negative effect. We lose focus, sleep, energy, exercise, and a million other things that prevent us from peak performance.

We should look at every hour we spend past our peak with frantic concern, like driving our car when the needle is on "E."

Focus on Eliminating Waste, Not Adding Hours

This isn't about "working less" — it's about being militant about efficiency.

When we look at our calendar from yesterday, what could we have done to accomplish the same outcome in 20% less time? Shorten our meeting times? Stay off social media? Heaven forbid turn off incessant messengers so we can complete the actual work?

If there's even a hint of opportunity to shred our efficiency we should be all over it.

We need to stop being "long hours" champions. We should be proud of how much we can do in as few hours as possible — not as many hours as we can sacrifice.

In Case You Missed It

How Much Should I Be Working? (podcast). Wil and Ryan take a deep dive into the benefits of thinking quality and not quantity when it comes to your weekly punch card.

Optimizing for Productivity. Working through peak productivity is easy. It’s the valleys that we’re concerned about. They key is to plan for and optimize the valleys so we can recharge effectively.

I’m Burnt Out. What Do I Do? When we hit a point of burn out it's important that we understand what to do about it. If we ignore it, the problem only gets much worse. So let's take a look at what Founders do to deal with burnout head on.

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual.  He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement).  After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do.  He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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