Working Less Is Dangerous
We create the world we live in, whether we are an employee or an entrepreneur.
For most of us, it’s less about removing bad work completely, but figuring out how we best live our lives to impact the world, feel good about what we do, and feel fulfilled. So, whether you find yourself doing a side gig toward a dream, running your own business, or living as an intrapreneur (entrepreneur in a company), this book is for you. We’re not talking about just a few productivity hacks or simple things to feel a little less stress. We are talking about reinventing your time to give you more independence, happiness, and innovative ideas that will impact the world.
We often think that inclinations are given, not proactively sought. To an extent, that is true. But, when we give time and energy to something, we may discover an undeveloped strength. Maybe a peer points out a skill of yours that you’ve never noticed, developed, or valued. Or something falls apart and you are forced to reassess all that you have to draw from, often while reevaluating your whole approach to life. While that can be painful and even terrifying if you’re forced to do that by some rapid, unexpected, or big change, taking a proactive look at what is shaping your thoughts and actions can be a game changer—in fact, a life changer. The brain is agile: it can adapt if given time and space to create new neural pathways.
three internal inclinations that repeatedly predict success:
Curiosity: An unrelenting search for knowledge, information, and new processes.
Outsider Approach: An inclination to question and disrupt the current modality.
Move on It: A disposition to jump in or leap forward with less information than others, which in turn gives a rapid download of information to assist with refining.
We know that curiosity comes from moving away from the negative feelings of boredom, moving toward the positive feelings of mastery, or addressing incongruent beliefs.
Creating more time for boredom spurs curiosity. This is tough in the workplace, since every moment in a business is usually allocated for specific work. For the Industrialists, boredom is the antithesis of productivity. Therefore, it is useless in the work world.
Google is said to have allowed 20 percent of work time to be devoted to special projects, but several articles say this is a bit of a myth. Some say it’s “120 percent time”—meaning overtime—and others say only 5 to 10 percent of employees use it.6
If the 20 percent time that purportedly spurred the creation of Gmail, AdSense, and Google News ever did exist, it sounds like it has been greatly reduced. The Industrialist mindset has won again. This type of time allocation is exactly what could help grow curiosity and creativity in the business world.
Being an outsider for the sake of standing out is really just loneliness. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about creating situations to be different only to be different. We’re not just chaos-making. But being an outsider to improve and expand better ideas, that’s something worth pursuing. There are outsiders who are a pain to be around. That is destructive and dysfunctional. But having an Outsider inclination that grows something new keeps you moving constantly forward. It’s like those seeds that are only released in a forest fire: a certain amount of pain leads to clarity and sparks the inclination to seek a new way.
Unhealthy disruption is usually fueled by anger, hate, and unresolved hurt. But the kind of Outsider thinking that I focus on here is based on firm and respectful groundedness, which shouts: “It doesn’t have to be this way!”
Move on It
Being a Mover has tremendous benefits. You can quickly think, evaluate, and take action on what you see as the stronger path, but it often comes with consequences. A traditional job (or at least a traditional role) may not be for you. You may find that, more times than not, you’re disappointed with the world. Or, even worse, you will be harshly judged for innovation, risk, and trying new approaches. Movers often fail, and to the typical Industrialist mindset, that is not okay. For them, the goal is a machine that keeps working until it can be replaced. That is not you.
For most people with an entrepreneurial bent, the context of their inclinations are going to magnify or minimize the appearance and value given to them. If you know you are a Mover and want to try new things without fear of failure, it is important to find or create a job or business where that is valued.
#1 BOUNDARIES AND BREAKS
Boundaries and breaks do something that the Industrialists missed: dropping the ball. The very first step in slowing down is to establish nonnegotiable boundaries. Why nonnegotiable? Creating firm boundaries stops creep.
By determining the best use of time, it forces you to go through the stop, eliminate, and reduce lenses, because you no longer are trying to do everything within a time period that is not defined.
#2 ACTIONS TO SHIFT YOUR SLOW-DOWN HABITS
One of the best ways to both stop the unhelpful habits and grow the optimization of our brains is in nature.
The power of nature is significant. In a 2010 study looking at 101 Michigan schools, those with greener views from the classroom and cafeteria had higher graduation rates, standardized test scores, students attending four-year schools, and lower criminal behavior.11
Study after study shows that even nature pictures can be effective in helping employees slow down and have useful breaks.
There are two major categories of slowing down:
Reducing tasks and activities that trigger the sympathetic system.
Increasing activities that amplify the parasympathetic system.
In Category One, we are stopping doing things that are unhelpful. In Category Two, we are doing more healthy activities. For example, we stop checking email at night or on the weekend and we start meditating ten minutes each morning. One is reducing the negative and the other amplifies the positive.
#3 STOP THE UNHELPFUL
So let’s start by looking at the types of activities that are most frequently cited in the reduction category: technology, obligations, and stressful interactions.
- Set a clear beginning and end time to work on a project
- Don’t check texts, emails, or the news before your workday starts.
- Set a clear beginning and end time for your day.
- Monitor how refreshed you feel when looking at technology before bed.
- Reduce apps that trigger “work mode” by disabling notifications on your phone for those apps.
- Have tech detox days where you only use a photo for coordinating that day’s events.
- Schedule your own Slow Down School (or come to mine, www.slowdownschool.com) and spend a week free from technology.
- Stop and breathe more. Realize that you are a human being, not a human doing.12
- Eliminate any obligations that don’t meet your personal, family, or business goals. These could include serving on a board of directors that you no longer enjoy.
- Set boundaries with your family or friends. For example, if someone asks you to do something, either tell them you can’t or just wait to text for twelve hours; it usually sorts itself out.
- Identify professional tasks that no longer serve your big goals.
- Create boundaries to give yourself an additional eight hours off per week. Watch what falls apart and outsource that to someone else.
- Outsource obligations you no longer need such as mowing the lawn, folding laundry, or cleaning your house.
- Stop thinking about work when you are not at work.
- Make a list of things you hate doing and see if a system or person could do them for you.
- Stop and breathe more. Realize that you are a human being, not a human doing
- Evaluate which clients are the most difficult to handle, consider raising their prices, handing them off to another staff member, or eliminating them from your workload.
- Communicate with others in the way you want to. If they want to “jump on a quick call” and you think it can be solved with a voice memo, do what you think is best.
- Consider leaving friendships or relationships in which the other person is needy and not making you feel good about yourself.
- Reduce the amount of time you are with family members who are toxic; no one said you have to be at Thanksgiving all day (or if they did, that’s their issue).
- Set boundaries with unhealthy coworkers or supervisors to limit communication, after-hours email/text, and expectations.
- Put yourself first.
- Stop and breathe more. Realize that you are a human being, not a human doing.
Your Big, Successful, Happy Life
The Industrialists want your life. But it is not theirs to take. Sure, your situation may feel like these topics are unmovable for you (good for you getting to this point if that’s you). The movement toward a four-day workweek is humanity’s natural next step in evolution. This is the time for us to do this.
We need the new Henry Fords to make clear and authoritative statements about the next step of human potential as we move away from a five-day workweek.
Imagine a world where our brains feel calm with less anxiety and coordinate with nature. Imagine we spend time with friends, family, and have time alone from the world. Then, when it’s time to work, we are so excited, creative, and productive that we leave work wanting more. Imagine we’re so in the zone or in flow that what we do doesn’t drain us but instead makes us feel more alive.
You are needed to make Thursday the new Friday.