What if you had only an hour a day to work?
Most founders I've met push to their extremes.
If I'm still standing, keep driving forward.
This mindset hurts your health and uses up all your energy. Beyond that, it might cause you to miss out on impactful, high-leverage moves.
Let’s say you work 10 hours every day on average, thinking that’s the most you can do without seeing your work quality drop.
The first trap is thinking about the “time you put in.”
Working above average leads to the belief that the outcome should be equally above average.
Find yourself thinking, "I gave 60 hours this week; I’ve done enough"? You've stumbled into the trap where time becomes a measure of success.
The next pitfall relates to energy distribution and results orientation.
With long work hours, you try to handle everything, whether it’s important or not. The to-do list seems never-ending, and teammates find it all too easy to bring every issue to you.
By day's end, you're drained, tackled numerous tasks, yet... uncertain if you shifted the needle.
Now, a curveball for you - what if you had only an hour a day to work?
First work smart, then work hard. In that sequence.
Why and how
I came up with this protocol after feeling burned out numerous times, either at the end of a day or a week. The basic idea is to intentionally select a date in advance and allocate a 1-hour slot for work. Once the 60 minutes are up, stop and resume the next day.
In my case, this 1-hour workday forces maximum caloric work inside two questions:
What's the highest-leverage action to impact my goal?
How can I advance this action as much as possible within 60 minutes?
Before you start
Schedule your first session 2-3 weeks in advance
Clear your calendar for that day
Plan your after-hours time with something enjoyable
Make some notes on the two questions above (cheatsheet)
On the hour
Turn off your phone and notifications
Start a 20-minute timer. This is a prep time.
Take your notebook and… think!
What’s the highest-leverage action…?
How can I advance this action…?
Usually, you will come up with actions in one of the categories:
Initiation → “There’s this __ (thing) we must address. I need __ (who) to open conversation about __ (what), in order to __ (goal).”
Strategic questioning → “Is our goal valid? How do I know this?”
Tactic questioning → “Are our actions in line with the goal? How do I know this?”
Company health check → “Are we on track and how do I know this?”
Delegation → “This __ (thing) takes too much of my time. It must be delegated.
Decision → “This __ (thing) must be resolved. I have/don’t have all the required information to make the decision. If not… [Initiation].”
After you know the action, start another 30-minute timer. This is your work time. Write an Actionable Note to actually move things forward. Who-What-When is always a good framework to follow.
Lastly, start a 10-minute timer, start your computer, and share your Actionable Note with involved teammates.
Close your computer and go enjoy your life :)
I prefer a notebook, over a computer. Less chance that some random notification will ruin your 1-hour workday.
Magic comes after 10 minutes when my brain syncs and I’m totally immersed. There’s only me, the notebook, and these two damn questions.
It’s fun to set yourself a ‘theme’ for some sessions. A few ideas I’d like to use:
Act as a new, external CEO. What are the first 5 things you do?
Act as an attacking investor or client (red teaming)
Rewrite an elevator speech
MVP - who are my Most Valuable Players and why?
What if I have to reduce/increase the price 10x?
and so on…
If you want to make the experience genuinely challenging, schedule a 1-hour workday for Monday. Knowing you have just one hour on the 'kick-off' day is quite uncomfortable, but it truly makes you value every second :)
What others think
Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
From Naval Ravikant:
Earn with your mind, not your time.
You should be too busy to “do coffee," while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.
From an unknown author:
An intelligent person can make money, but it takes a genius to stay unbusy.