Work to live. Don’t live to work.
Point to Ponder: Happier people are more productive, thereby getting more work done in less time than others.
Imagine for a moment what it would feel like to work less—if you could focus more on your family and other things that matter in your life. Work is wonderful, especially when you are passionate about it. But there’s more to life than work, so what would it be like if you didn’t have as much? What would you do with the extra time? Who would you spend it with? Whether you want to reduce your hours at your current job or eventually stop working to focus on your family, consider these four strategies:
1. Restructure your day and break bad work habits.
Are you working too many empty hours? Could a 50-hour workweek really be a 40-hour week? Many workers work hard, but not smart. So working less, if you are in this category, is a matter of breaking some bad work habits. If you are the first one in and the last one out every day, something might be wrong. Create personal deadlines to force yourself out of the office if you need to—for example, schedule a 5:30 dinner date or class at the gym so you must leave the office on time. Find ways to eliminate distractions so you can use your time in the office more efficiently.
2. If you want to work fewer than 40 hours, know your company.
If you want to work fewer than 40 hours, you’ve got to know the culture at your company and prepare accordingly. In some workplaces, working less will mean no or slow promotions. You must decide whether or not you are okay with that. But in today’s new economy, there are many businesses that would love to spend less money on employees who can give them a real bang for their buck. In those companies, scaling back is not necessarily a career killer—as long as you make an impact. If you work fewer hours but give your all and make a contribution to the bottom line, you will always be seen as a valuable player. So part of the strategy for working less is being strategic and performing at your best, whether you’re working 40 hours a week or 20.
3. Can you afford to work fewer than 40 hours? If so, make a plan.
Ask yourself how you can prepare financially. For most people, one of the main purposes of work is earning a living. The doors open wide to work less when you live below your means. If you quit your job or scaled back on your hours, would you be able to make it? If not, make a plan to get to the point where you don’t have to work so much. Know exactly what that number is. Trim your expenses and save, save, save!
4. If you want to work fewer than 40 hours, ask yourself if it is time to switch careers.
This option would be a long-term solution—a higher-paying job down the road for fewer hours than you work now. Ask yourself, “What opportunity would allow me to earn more for my time?” Many people in this economy have been forced to make a transition to new lines of work. One good thing that can come of a forced transition is the opportunity to reevaluate your options. A different career path could dramatically increase your income while demanding less of your time. This option may require time to prepare or train, but can be a smart, long-term solution to the problem of overwork. Especially for those thinking of starting a family who know they don’t want a job with long hours as a parent, think ahead and plan for a transition to working less.