Why Don’t You Spend More Time at Work?

CaptureWhen I was doing research in the lab I worked ten hours a days. Six days a week.

And for those six days a week I’d take a pile of journals home and read them. The latest published chemistry. I read every relevant article in every major journal for three years. And I took notes.

In my research, nothing worked for the first year and a half.

Not a single experiment produced anything of merit. I didn’t really care. I knew this couldn’t last. And it didn’t.

I loved it.

I play the guitar. When I play the guitar I have to force myself to put it down and go and do something else, like feed the kids. Or get dressed.  

When I stand up in front of intelligent people and talk, I want it to go on forever. I love it.

I have a cleaner. I don’t mean an assassin. I mean, literally, a cleaner. I am embarrassed about this. I have a limiting belief that says you should clean your own cage. But I am fighting it.

She has been on hols for five weeks and frankly my sporadic and lacklustre filling in was no longer cutting it so today I cleaned the house (before she starts back tomorrow – I know, I know.)

Top to bottom.

I procrastinated before I started cleaning. My procrastination stopped me from starting until noon and then re-asserted itself at 2pm when I managed to convince myself that I had to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix from Monza (just the start…and then all of it.)

As I get older I find it increasingly difficult to do stuff I don’t want to do. This process is accelerated by being bossless.

I cannot see how I could ever routinely do excellent work if I don’t love the work. I can do lots of stuff as a discipline but there’s no soul in it. My house is clean, clean, clean. But the process of getting it there didn’t move me and will not be repeated any time soon.   

So when I see someone talking about work-life balance, I think it is code for I’d rather be somewhere else.  

It’s the same with clock watching. And running out the door at 5pm.

All code for I’d rather be somewhere else.  

When I worked in the lab my work-life balance was perfect. I worked sixty hours a week and probably another ten at home reading. I couldn’t do more hours because the lab is no place to play when you’re alone and tired.

I work longer hours now than I ever did in corporate life because I want to.

I don’t do sixty hours because I’ve got kids but if I didn’t I would.

Increasingly I see successful business owners who fall into a great pattern – they work, work, work for 10 or 12 weeks and then go on holiday and do no work whatsoever. Not a stroke. They do this because they love the work and have no desire to be sitting on the sofa at 7pm watching the idiot box.

So they operate in one of two modes at all times – constant work or constant play.

If you want to do less…

…of what you’re doing, then what you’re doing is not your thing and you won’t be any good at it.

If you want to do more…

…of what you’re doing, then what you’re doing is your thing and you’ll be good at it.

So we should play to our strengths despite our conditioning that says “fix your weaknesses.”

I was watching Sebastian Vettel talk at Monza. He is dull, bland, corporate. He is a one trick pony but what a great trick. He can really drive a racing car. And he’s only 12!

If you have a job you can usually sculpt it in such a way that it suits you better. And you should.

I spent a lot of time in sales despite never seeing myself as a sales guy. I could have crushed myself to death by acting like the sales guy from central casting but I didn’t. I did what I wanted. I acted like a coach and coached my team to sell better. So I enjoyed my “sales life” more, spent more time on it and I think I was good at it.

Now I have written before about doing what needs to be done rather than simply doing what you like. This is important, and reflects reality. Each of us has to do some crap and we should just do it.

But it is completely legitimate to change the cards you have been dealt; to get rid of the stuff you hate (to safer, more able hands, not to simply bury it).

Sebastien Vettel will not be spending today on a presentation skills course.

He’ll be driving a bloody car.  

We have been conditioned to believe that work = hard and if it’s easy then it isn’t work.

This is wrong.

So why not have a day today when you deal with the stuff you hate by getting rid of it responsibly and spend most of your time doing what you like to do and want to do.

Then, tomorrow, do it again. And so on. 

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