Robyn Pearce: Why do we work such long hours?

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Time management and productivity consultant Robyn Pearce on how to work less hours and still get great results.

As I work with clients in many countries, a recurring theme is how to work less hours. Some are doing it but most are still seeking that particular Holy Grail! Trouble is, many think they're locked in, with no choice but to work crazy hours.

Dave, an automotive care business owner, was a seminar participant.

"I used to open Saturday mornings. One Saturday afternoon, as I rolled home exhausted, it hit me like a bomb that every weekend I was too tired to do anything with my family.

I got to thinking - if I felt like that, so probably did my staff, and was that fair? I asked myself: 'Would it damage the business if we didn't open on Saturdays?'

I decided to risk losing business and stop Saturday trading. That was five years ago. It has made no impact on the company profits.

Customers just organise themselves better. The shop shuts at 5pm, and the customers fit in with me.'

That started a very spirited debate. Several people had seven-day businesses - and couldn't see how they could take time off.

'We service large 24/7 manufacturing plants. I have to always be call. We're only a small firm - that's the way it is.'

'We've got a restaurant. We finally took the first weekend off in six months. Left town. Next morning the chef arrived over an hour late and another staff member called in sick.'

Others had a different view. Seemed we'd touched a raw nerve!

'My most successful distributor has very regular holidays and long weekends,' Tony told us. 'He's trained his staff well, they're empowered to make decisions, and he can leave them to it.'

Paul's team of five cover each other's work. His daughter runs the office; she can also do warrants of fitness (their business). One person can be away and the show goes on.

Another woman has run many businesses, including a dairy/convenience store. Initially the shop was open from 5.30am - 8pm. Within a short time, feeling half-dead, with no energy for their small children or any quality of life, they called in an advisor.

He asked: 'Why such long hours?

Track takings each hour to see what you can change.

Business Principle # 1 - You can't improve what you don't inspect.

'Very quickly we decided to reduce by 2 hours. We found smarter ways to do things; for instance, stacking the pie warmer the night before. And we didn't lose customers. The impatient first customers at 6.30am were the same people who used to wait at the door at 5.30am. The regular 8pm clients were the same people who came late at 7pm.'

The woman sitting next to her said: 'We need the guts to tell our customers how we want to be treated, to take control. If we don't set out clear expectations we've only got ourselves to blame.'

Business Principle # 2: Educate the people around you how to treat you.

There's no one right answer, but this I know - if we keep working crazy hours something will give. Machines don't work well for long without maintenance; nor do we. And an important part of our maintenance is taking regular time off.

Get your free copy of Robyn's report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds.' . You can reach her at robyn@gettingagrip.com

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