Often times, when a person joins or starts a start-up as an entrepreneur, their life becomes rather chaotic. The impression is, that to compete with the big industries out there and make money, a person has to spend every waking moment working. And, as the case may be, some moments that would normally be dedicated to sleep should be spent working.
Generally speaking, the reason people are so work-oriented when dealing with a start-up is because they want to get their product perfected and make a name for themselves in an industry. There is always something else that you can be doing in order to increase your success. There is always another networking opportunity, another chance to tweak the product and make it that much better. This mindset leads to the 80 hour work week that entrepreneurs so often experience.
The thing is, though, that this 80 hour work week isn’t actually necessary. If you are dedicated, have a schedule and a routine and a to-do list, you can get just as much done in the standard 40 hour work week that constitutes full-time in the United States. Truly. You don’t have to spend every waking moment working. Actually, if you don’t spend every waking moment working you are more likely to be living a balanced life and be more refreshed and recharged for when you do start working again. You can get just as much done and you can do it more efficiently and more effectively.
As such, the 80 hour work week equating success is a myth. And it sucks.
What in the world, you might ask, does this have to do with writing?
Let me enlighten you.
I recently returned to the States from Scotland after finishing up my MSc in Applied Linguistics. I decided that instead of getting a job in the linguistics field (meaning working with one of the AI companies on Natural Language Processing) I would pursue writing as a full-time career. This is probably old news to you, if you’re here, but the point is relevant.
As an independent author, I am basically working as an entrepreneur and creating a start-up. It’s a company of one, but I still have to have a product work buying and a means to market that product. I am networking, tweaking, marketing, writing, selling. I am doing everything that one would expect of a start-up, including the fact that at the moment, I am not making much in the way of money. Don’t worry, that comes later.
I could easily spend huge amounts of time creating content that people can absorb. I already do two YouTube videos a week (that schedule is shortly to change to two videos weekly with a third video bi-weekly), write a blog post a week, do social media, am working on a second website for writers and the writing community, am preparing Speaker of Words for publication in October (!) and am also writing another book, which currently stands at around 52K words. That is a lot of things to be doing.
However, I only spend 40 hours a week working. I am done every day around five and I take an hour for lunch. I still manage to get everything done and the quality is not lesser in any way. How?
I put together a consistent schedule. There are certain things I do at certain times. I do them every day (minus the weekends) and once they’re done I move on. I don’t spend hours on social media. I don’t watch videos during the time I’m meant to be working on scripting or filming my YouTube videos. I write every afternoon, whether I want to do so or not. I have my to-do list and my schedule and I stick to it. If something extra comes up, you finish the tasks you began first before moving on to the new project. Or you adjust your schedule so that you are working less on the older projects and have some time for the new.
The truth is, if you work consistently and with dedication you can achieve a great deal. You don’t need to break your back working an unreasonable number of hours that leaves you with no time to do anything else. You just need to work consistently and with dedication, sticking to a schedule and limiting your distractions.
Those things will see you much further than burning yourself out trying to achieve an unreasonable amount of things. And at the end of the day, you won’t regret not being able to spend time with friends and family, or taking the time to enjoy a walk, or missing out on life. You will have both a decent job and a decent life.
Work smarter. Not harder.