I thought a 100-hour workweek would help my startup succeed, but it didn’t take off until I cut my workweek down to 35 hours

I was confident when I started my second company. I started my first business from my bedroom. I was 17 years old then. I sold domain names and had a hosting company. I sold this business for over 3 million euros when I was 24 years old. When I started my second startup, Time Etc – a company that offers virtual emergency services – I thought growing fast wouldn’t be a problem. But I was wrong. We struggled to find customers, employees left and we lost every month. I started to lose my passion and enthusiasm and I was afraid of failing. My first reaction was to work more to solve the problem. I thought everything would fall into place if I worked more. After all, it is always said that if you work hard, you will be successful.

There I sat at my desk at 3 a.m. on a Sunday, desperate to get through my Monday to-do list in an effort to move forward. At one point I was working 100 hours a week and every day felt like I was burned out

I was often irritated and kept my distance from my family. I didn’t make time to see friends. For four years my business hardly grew. Then I had an epiphany that was triggered by my mother’s passing in 2011. In the midst of my grief and pain, I began to reevaluate my life.

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It became clear to me that the way I was growing my business wasn’t working and I needed to change something. So I threw myself into studying the habits of highly successful people and learned more about the psychology of productivity.

I’ve learned that the world’s most successful people don’t chain themselves to their desks late. They work smarter, have a strict schedule, they delegate well and they know a lot about themselves. That helps them understand when they are most and least productive and plan work around those times, around their productive highs and lows.

What I discovered has pushed me to completely change the way I work and adopt a strict 35-hour work week. Now I am happier and healthier, I spend a lot of time with my three small children and my business is thriving. In the first year after I adjusted my work schedule, our turnover has grown and we have started offering our services on a second continent. Since then, the company’s turnover has grown from less than 1 million euros to a turnover of more than 10 million.

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When I tell them how few hours I actually work, people often don’t believe it.But there are changes you can make today to get you on the right track. Learning to prioritize

To drastically reduce your work hours, you have to be very selective about what you put on your to-do list. The question I ask myself is this: Will completing this task help my business move forward? I only commit if the answer to this question is a yes.

I also use the Eisenhower Matrix to help me decide which tasks to take on, which to delegate, which to do first, and where to save time. You must draw everything on your to-do list within four squares marked with the following:

  • Urgent
  • Important
  • Not in a hurry
  • Not significant

I give priority to everything that is urgent and important.

2. Delegating is a skill

Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to delegate (control freaks!), but this is one of the most crucial things if you want to work fewer hours. You can start by identifying time-consuming tasks or tasks that you have to repeat often. Think, for example, of booking travel, sending invoices, tracking unpaid bills, posting on social media and scheduling meetings. Some of these tasks can be automated with software, while others are better done by a real person, perhaps a management assistant or a virtual assistant, but not by you. Remember, you only do tasks that directly help your business grow. Delegating tasks to a person you trust is the best solution. Give clear instructions and then let them do their thing. Also, remember that delegating a task doesn’t mean you’ll never be involved again. You may need to check their work and provide feedback. But you save time by not running after every task yourself. Be strict about your schedule

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To do everything I set out to accomplish in a week, each of my 35 work hours must be well spent. If someone asks me if I have five minutes for them to catch up, the answer is no, I don’t have that time. I never start a day without knowing exactly what I’m going to work on. The best tool to plan your week to ensure maximum productivity is simply your calendar app. My Google calendar also serves as a to-do list, which helps to limit my workday and allocate time for specific tasks. I also set specific alerts and reminders to keep feeling the pressure and to motivate myself. That is something that is very important for entrepreneurs who do not have to meet deadlines from customers or clients.

4.You may be better able to focus on difficult tasks early in the morning and not be able to solve problems before lunch. There’s no point in fighting it. Cultivating self-awareness around these natural highs and lows can help you create a work schedule that works best for you. Tracking your own productivity levels and adjusting your workload accordingly will help you make the most of your time.

5. Limit your distractions

A distraction for me is a task that doesn’t directly help me achieve my goals. Identifying your most important distractions is the first step toward limiting them. Making a list helps, for example my distractions are answering emails, notifications on social media and meetings. Think about how to avoid these distractions. If it’s your phone, you can mute the sound and leave your phone in another room during the hours when you’re most productive. I schedule half an hour at the end of each workday to complete my email template and reply to all messages as necessary. For me, this approach is more efficient than if I’m continuously distracted by my inbox during the day. Finding a long-term solution to time-consuming, recurring distractions is a simple step to potentially save many hours of work.

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Time Etc, and the author of The Hard Work Myth.

Author: Jobly