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How I Decreased My Weekly Office Hours From 40-plus to Less Than 8

Can a CEO work eight hours a week? Yes, and here’s one who did it.

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You sit down at your desk ready to destroy your workday. You brew a pot of coffee, break out your calendar and dive into your most important task.

And then it happens. The phone rings, or a co-worker stops by to say “hey.” Maybe your boss swings by to ask about those TPS reports.

Whatever type of interruption you face, you’re annoyed. And if you work in an office, you know exactly what I’m talking about: Just because you’re sitting behind that desk and have already  “clocked in,” everyone thinks it’s perfectly okay to engage you. Unfortunately, these random engagements can absolutely kill your productivity.

Not only can they knock you off task, but they consume your mental energy for the day. I didn’t notice how much time I was losing before I had kids, but I notice it much more now that I have four. And yes, being a parent has severely limited my ability to endure small talk and mindless babble.

Parents, you know what I’m talking about: 20 minutes in the hallway talking about last night’s game. A co-worker lamenting over workplace stuff. A leisurely lunch invite that turns into a two-hour affair against your will.

Related: The Tim Ferriss Approach to Setting Goals: Rig the Game so You Win

This is the type of stuff that can waste your productivity and reduce your potential.

Creating space and forging a new path

After a few years of enduring these wasted moments and opportunities, I was convinced something needed to change. I wanted to get out of the office more, but to accomplish nearly the same amount of work. More importantly, I wanted to stop wasting so much time, when I could be home with my family or out enjoying life.

At first, I thought that leaving the office more often would be an impossible feat. I mean, how could leave more often yet still accomplish the same level of work?

Sure, I was the CEO of my own wealth-management firm, but that didn’t mean I could come and go as I pleased. If I wasn’t in the office, what would my clients think? Was my team even capable of running everything in my absence? What if something went wrong?

It took me a while to realise I was consumed with limiting beliefs. Fortunately, a few amazing entrepreneurs and thought leaders made me realise the error of my ways. First, I read Tim Ferris’ book The 4-Hour Workweek and realised what was possible. Using the strategies in his book, I could reduce my time in the office significantly, right? Second, I joined a coaching program called Strategic Coach. The program introduced me to the concept of “creating space.”

One exercise we did involved tallying up how many free days we had taken in the last year. Why? Because they said we needed to learn to “create space” in our lives. And, to create that space, we had to give ourselves a break and some time off. Over time, the mental exercise of “creating space” allowed me to figure out what was important in my life, then outsource the rest.

Third, I started listening to productivity geniuses like Michael Hyatt. Highly productive entrepreneurs aren’t born that way, Hyatt says. They learn to become ultra-productive by mastering their environments. According to Hyatt, constant interruptions and distractions are the number one obstacle entrepreneurs face as they check off their to-do lists and work toward their goals.

And that is a shame, Hyatt say his websites. “Entrepreneurs and executives like us have too much value to contribute to our businesses and the people that matter most in our lives to let distractions drag us down,” he says on.

Just listening to experts like these taught me to “create space” and step away from my situation, to a certain extent. From there I set out on a path to limit distractions and build a better workday. Over time, I brought my office time from 40 hours per week to less than eight hours, with no impact to my productivity and even greater earnings over time.

Related: Building Real Work Life Balance

How did I do it? Five ways

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1. I hired strategically

Although I already had a director of relations on staff, I added an associate advisor, as well. The associate’s job was to be “me” when I wasn’t there – giving expert advice to our clients and providing the service they deserve.

This is where I think a lot of small business owners fail. Scared that no one could ever stand in their shoes, they refuse to outsource their most important work. But, if you want to reduce your hours, this step is crucial.

It took a while to get everything set up. For several months, I had to work 60-hour weeks to teach this new hire everything he needed to know. But once the hard work was done, I had a trusted and polished counterpart to lean on.

2. We started documenting our processes

Eventually, I learned I could make my life easier by streamlining processes I did over and over. A tool that I stumbled on, Sweet Process, helps you create processes for everything in your business.

Using this tool, we began creating processes for higher-level tasks such as opening new accounts. From there, we created processes for making bank deposits and processing client contributions. Once we got all the higher-level tasks squared away, we even created systems to take over the small tasks in our workday.

Creating all those processes takes a lot of work up-front work, but once you’re done and new people you’ve taken on are trained, you never have to do these things again. Even better, if you eventually have to hire someone new or replace someone, your documented processes can serve as a training manual.

3. I “created space” and scheduled time for being away from the office

Once I hired more people and created processes, I had to schedule time for being away, to see if my new strategy could work. So, that’s exactly what I did – even though I had to force myself to leave the office.

At first, I spent time hanging out at a coffee shop or working from home. That way, I could test my new employee’s abilities without stepping away completely. Once I felt more comfortable, I started taking Tuesdays off. Then I started added more “off days” to my calendar each week. Eventually, I was down to just eight hours in the office each week, yet everything was still running smoothly. And yes, it felt great!

Related: 5 Secrets to Achieving and Maintaining Work-Life Balance

4. We improved communication

Before I reduced my hours, I had used email, texting and Google Chat as my primary sources of communication. This worked fine for a while, but we eventually realised we were losing conversations and details this way.

Then we stumbled on Slack. Slack allowed us to create channels specific to certain needs for our financial advisory firm; we could conduct ongoing conversations by searching past ones for details. Where we had once lost important information and conversations, Slack kept all of our correspondence in one place.

5. We reviewed actions and looked for ways to improve

Just as happened in the military where I participated in After Action Reviews, I created a process for weekly reviews in my office. We didn’t review one other’s work per se, but instead, how the week had done in general. How was our communication? Did everything get done? Did anything fall through the cracks?

By highlighting any gaps in our communication and planning, we could find ways to improve. And that’s exactly what we did. Over time, we improved everything from our daily communication to results for our clients.

Final thoughts

Where I once felt I could never step away from the office, I now work less than 8 hours each week at the office.  And as the final nail in the coffin and proof that everything I outlined here works, we have drastically improved our profitability as well. In fact, Alliance Wealth Management (my firm) is on pace to grow revenue by 31 percent this year.

With more time on my hands, I am now able to be a better father and husband. In addition, I’ve created space and time to do something I have always wanted to do — which is to create a course geared toward financial advisors who want to become a force to be reckoned with in the online space. And you know what else? My course, The Online Advisor Growth Formula, is on track to add $100,000 in revenue to my business this year.

This fact underscores the idea that more work hours doesn’t always mean greater results and that, sometimes, less is more.

None of this could have happened if I had never stepped away – and if I had never listened to the savvy productivity experts who forged this path for me.

If you’re tired of working more to accomplish less, make sure to listen to the experts that study productivity like it’s their job (because it is). You might feel “stuck” working too many hours now, but a few small changes can make a world of difference.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Jeff Rose is an entrepreneur disguised as a certified financial planner, author and blogger. He's best know for his blog GoodFinancialCents.com and book, Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future. He's also the editor of LifeInsurancebyJeff.com. He escaped a path of financial destruction from dropping out of college with over $20,000 of credit card debt to become a self-made millionaire. His mission is help future generations achieve financial freedom by developing strong money habits and unleashing their entrepreneurial spirit.

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Work Life Balance

Managing Your Schedule Like A Boss: Tips The Experts Never Tell You

Time management is at the top of the short list of reasons why some people succeed and most don’t.

John Rampton

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Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.”

I don’t know about you, but I love that quote. It’s so simple, yet true. After all being deliberate with your time is one of the best ways to have a happy life in the business world. Of course, try as hard as you can, that’s not always the reality. Life is kind of known for throwing a monkey wrench into your plans every now and then.

But, it’s still possible to manage your schedule like a boss by following these can’t-beat tips.

Create a routine

Next up you need to create, and stick, to a routine.

Start by blocking times for specific activities, such as checking emails, exercise and spending time with your family. You can then convert your calendar into a series of blocks for you to place activities in the prepared spaces. If something isn’t planned and placed into a block, don’t do it.

Keep in mind that your routine will probably change throughout the year. But, it’s better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all. For example, if you’re launching a start-up, then you should block times for activities like customer discovery, coding and hiring. Next year you may have to block out times for marketing, growing your business and customer service.

Related: Fighting Sleep Is A Losing Management Strategy. Let Your Employees Take Naps

Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week

“This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going,” write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival on Entrepreneur.

“You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.”

Add time buffers to manage your schedule

Have you missed a couple of deadlines because you jumped from project to project? It’s probably because your didn’t add time buffers. A buffer is something like this:

You just landed a new client for your freelance business. They assign you a deadline to complete the task. Instead of entering their exact deadline, your put your own deadline that’s 24-48 earlier. Those hours are the buffer.

Why’s that such a big deal? When you have a buffer, and something happens that you can’t control, you still have those 24-48 hours to meet the deadline.

Schedule your calendar like a to-do-list

If you have things on your schedule that have to be done, I personally like scheduling out time on my calendar for them. Much like a meeting, they have a set and scheduled time for this task to be accomplished.

For some people like myself, this includes blocking out time for working out, eating, walks and other important activities in my life. If I don’t make time for them, other things will always get in the way. I find that when I block out those times on my schedule, I’m much more proactive as well as I feel better about myself.

Use batching and time-blocking

In my early days of freelancing I multitasked like it was going out of style. I eventually realised that doing more than one thing at a time is ineffective and stressful. I was stressed beyond endurance because, as research now shows, the human brain isn’t capable of multitasking.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

A study conducted by Microsoft Research, shows that switching from task to task is less productive than staying on the same task, or the same types of tasks, over a block of time. That’s why batching is so awesome.

Batching is basically where you find similar tasks and then lump them all together to make a task-batch. You then sit down, set a timer, and focus only on those similar tasks. For example, setting aside 6 am to 7 am to check emails and then 8 am to 10 am to write blog posts.

Another strategy that you should try is using time-blocks. When you have outside meetings, block two and a half days per week for those meetings. Only attend those outside meetings during those time-blocks. To make blocking more effective, color-code your calendar so that you can visually glance at your calendar.

Chandler Bolt wrote a great book, The Productive Person, that you should read if you want to learn more about time-blocking.

Optimise time for different meeting types

To be honest, 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls are ideal. A 10-minute phone call with a prospective client is more than enough for me to know what their needs are and if we click. Better yet, Google Hangout or Skype can be used to see the person instead of just hearing them.

If you have a remote team, you can host a virtual meeting via Zoom,RingCentral Business, Zoho Meeting, Join.me or GoToMeeting.

Here are some suggestions on the types of meetings that you might want to book and schedule:

  • 45-minute meeting that’s outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel and 30 minutes for the meeting over coffee.
  • 30-minute weekly staff meeting.
  • 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know colleagues or catch up.
  • 15-minute daily standup if you’re a start-up or leading an engineering team.
  • 10-minute phone call to offer someone advice.

Related: Forget Time Management: Why You Should Practice Choice Management Instead

Whatever meetings you decide to hold a meeting, you should group them into blocks. If you think that a particular meeting needs more or less time, then you can adjust the block accordingly.

Still, just remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. “Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results,” say Mathews, Debolt, and Percival.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

How To Optimise Your Productivity After Quitting Your Job

You’ve done it. You’re your own boss. All the time in the world. Now the problem is – you’re used to 10 hours of your day being allocated elsewhere – there’s almost too much time now. So much time… and so many ways to waste it.

Jordan Stephanou

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The idea of having control of our own time is bliss. In many ways, nothing could be better than the idea of “freedom”, of having “full control” of one’s life. The reality is that it can be incredible, however it can also be life’s biggest trap. If there is no strategy to optimize this available time, it will turn into one major procrastination session.

If your time is not carefully managed, your entrepreneurial journey could become months of regret and self-loathing because of wasted opportunity. On the flip side, Peter Thiel has been paraphrased in saying that one of the beauties of an entrepreneurial life, is that if someone were to put a gun to your head and demand that you achieve 10 years worth of goals in 6 months, it would be possible. If time is used extremely effectively, anything is possible. That, in my view, is something to get excited about, and is reason enough to want to put tangible methods in place.

Note that many of these methods were inspired by Tim Ferriss and the many world class performers he has interviewed on his podcast. I have since experimented with recommendations and have found that the below have worked best for me.

1. Organise meetings

This may sound counterintuitive, because meetings are commonly considered (at least in the corporate world) to be the ultimate waste of time. The reason for that perception is that there is usually so much work to be done, and corporate meetings classically aren’t necessary for all the attendees, and do not result in a definitive next step.

Related: 10 Things You Must Do Before Quitting Your Job To Start Your Company

My argument for organising meetings is to conjure momentum when none exists early on in the process. If you are sitting with a blank calendar and a blank agenda, by arranging meetings with potential clients, partners, employees or investors, this will create a sense of scarcity; a simulated “due date” that will force you to do the appropriate work to be ready for said meeting, and could put you on an exciting unforeseen path post-meeting.

These meetings also get people on the same page as you; to buy into your vision and to get them excited by what excites you in your entrepreneurial journey – you never know what doors can open from connecting with the right people at the right time.

I read a quote recently that said “great opportunities never have ‘Great Opportunity’ in the subject line”.

2. Say No

You may receive a deluge of exciting propositions and projects out of nowhere that others less committed than you would like you to work on. These can be extremely tempting, but as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says, “The single most important distinction in life is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted”.

Derek Sivers makes this distinction by removing any middle ground – if he doesn’t feel that the opportunity is a “HELL YEAH!”, it’s simply a “no”. Another tool you could use is to rate opportunities out of 10 – but you’re not allowed to use the number 7. When in doubt, you have to either rate the opportunity as a 6 or an 8. If it’s a 6, it’s a definite “no”.

Saying no can be infinitely more difficult than saying yes. That’s why, it can be argued that nurturing the ability to decline mediocre opportunities is one the most important skills on the path to success.

organising-day3. Don’t let others set your agenda for you

You will wake up to several emails, whatsapp messages and a missed call. You are then faced with a difficult decision – to reactively respond to all before pursuing your agenda for the day; or proactively completing your agenda first and then addressing the needs of others.

The risk of the reactive approach, is that there is a high probability of getting derailed entirely by requests from other people. A seemingly short request could end up cascading into several hours of back and forth. It is quite possible that by the time this has reached completion, you have no energy left to allocate to the most important tasks for the day. You will leave feeling unfulfilled, as if the day was wasted – a routine you desperately need to avoid.

You should set your own agenda, and when the key tasks are completed, you attend to the emails and requests of others.

Related: How To Start A Side Hustle Without Quitting Your Day Job

4. Set your most important 3 tasks each day

On any given day, you may have 32 important things you want to achieve. Where does one even begin to prioritise these? Typically, we may start with the easiest of the 32 to get that “small win” feeling. The downside is that the easiest may not be the most important or urgent, and could leave you feeling in a similar position to where you started. That’s why I set the most important 3 each day.

They may take 5 minutes each or 5 hours each, but if you can consistently overcome the most important 3 tasks on a daily basis, you will not only make tangible progress in your work, but develop an unrivalled (and somewhat addictive) sense of productivity.

In addition, I recommend setting these 3 tasks at the end of each working day, so that you can get straight into them the next morning. I find that setting the next day’s objectives is a nice way to wind down the day, and reduce chances of morning procrastination the next day because your agenda will already be pre-constructed, leaving no room for excuses.

5. Find the environment that speaks to your working soul

Some people thrive in 8am-5pm busy office environments, while others can only work from night time when it feels like the world around them is asleep. Some people love absolute silence while others need the madness of boisterous conversation and loud music. There is no perfect way to work.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

I have found that the ambience of coffee shops is conducive to a productive environment – being surrounded by people of different backgrounds and occupations leads to a complementary sense of both community and urgency, and removes any sense of loneliness. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of the right music to aid productivity.

Certain melodic lyric-less music could help create a rhythm conducive to productivity (Tim Ferriss highly recommends Gramatik as an aid to his book writing). Some people prefer music they are extremely familiar with, and even play the same song or album on repeat for hours; the familiarity could create a sense of comfort, and you won’t get distracted by the lyrics.

There is no perfect formula for productivity. There is no script, as much as others may try enforce theirs onto you. That’s why this journey is so exciting – you can use any of the methods above and do what works for you. Be productive by using your mind, not your time.

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Work Life Balance

Immerse Yourself In Purposeful Reading This Holiday Season

As the festive season draws close, and we have a bit more time on our hands, I thought I’d share details about a few of my favourite books which I encourage everyone to read.

Brian Eagar

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I am an avid reader. Maybe not as avid as Nelson Mandela was or self-made billionaires Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and many others are, but still very avid. Buffett, in fact, estimates that he spends as much as 80% of his time reading. He puts his success down to the amount of literature that he consumes, saying that reading is what makes him a more nimble and astute businessman.

Reading broadens the mind and allows for learning through others’ experiences. Through learning, we build up knowledge. By putting that knowledge into practice over time, we build wisdom. Wisdom in turn builds trust, builds relationships and attracts followers.

As the festive season draws close, and we have a bit more time on our hands, I thought I’d share details about four of my favourite books which I encourage everyone to read.

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