Choosing To Work Less

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‘So what’s next for you? Another business planned? Starting again and scaling up?’ A friend of my daughters probed me after I told him I had sold my business.

‘Other than working on a few websites I own and the business I have equity in then nothing really’ I answered.

He looked at me puzzled with a wry smile as if I was playing down my future plans. I wasn’t. This is it and this is me.

I started my business in 2014 while working full time. That continued for well over a year until the business eventually grew enough to support my transition to part-time employment. It wasn’t until late 2019 that this became a full-time endeavour.

In the early days, I would regularly wake at 4 am to fit in a couple of hours of work on the business before commuting to the office. Unsustainable but necessary as I was destined to go it alone.

As the years passed the business financially started to support itself and other people; welcomed additions to ease the burden on my sagging shoulders. At the same time a new responsibility; that of a father to a little girl fresh to the world. 

The business continued to grow and other life events continued. Extensions, pandemics, loss of family members, illness and IVF. Never easy but manageable. My brain constantly juggling the hedonic treadmill of life. A short term reprieve when we sold our primary asset only to continue to scale our remaining assets, a pregnant wife and a house move to place me firmly back onto the treadmill without a stop button.

Running your own business is constant. In the latter days, our educational sites became in some ways self-sufficient. Outsourced support team, a global tribe of professional writers and a project manager. This gave me more time to find more growth opportunities; a head fuller than ever. They say outsource the smaller jobs to ‘free up’ your time. You are never free, it’s just different.

I found detachment difficult. On a weekend I would dive into support tickets when the response wasn’t sufficient. I’d be constantly watching from afar, never fully on but never off. This was my life and my business. I expected nothing short of excellence.

And then one day I sold it all. Emails vanished overnight, the team stopped contacting me, access to the websites revoked. My morning coffee now consisted of reading articles instead of assessing the overnight performance.

At first, it felt lonely. 7 years of growing this ‘thing’ was no more. I was no longer ‘busy’ or ‘important’. But as time has passed I’ve become comfortable in who I am. I still work, but just the right amount. Weekends are full-on but with family activities (I barely look at my phone). Cycling, a bit of gardening and cooking fill my day. Two children keep you busy so the term ‘free time’ is subjective!

We have enough now. My little bit of work covering our monthly expenses. Make hay while the sun shines, they say. But we have enough. For now, for 10 years and for 50 years. So we choose to work less.

My gang.

The Science:

In a paper published 17 May, authors from institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggest that each year, three-quarters of a million people are dying from ischaemic heart disease and stroke, due to working long hours.

One of the main proponents of this is the impact long working hours has on other areas of your life.

‘Those logging long hours may be sleeping little, barely exercising, eating unhealthy foods and smoking and drinking to cope’

Couple the above with having children then it’s a recipe for long term health complications. Look at someone you know who works long hours. Perhaps this person is you? Has this impacted other areas of your/their life?

This can be compounded further with revenge bedtime procrastination where people choose leisure time over their long term health and stay up late after work browsing the web or watching tv.

The connectivity of our life via smartphones and home computers means we are constantly available and as a result ‘constantly working’. The long term health impact of this hasn’t yet played out but the adoption of societies ‘busy culture’ means it’s more difficult to opt-out than staying in your lane. The cost of working can also have even more mental and physical impact.

Choosing to work less:

I think as tech workers we all have the ability (and privilege) to work less. Earning potential and choosing when we want to work is unrivalled. But why not choose less? Take a holistic view of work, exercise, health and life in general.

I’ve had countless opportunities since selling the business to jump into another project but right now I am happy with just doing a little bit.

How much do you work? Is it costing you your long term health and even your life? Are you making any decisions to reduce this and perhaps choose an alternative path?


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