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Be home in time for dinner: Four ways to work less, make more, and increase productivity

Maybe you enjoy working the long hours. Yes, staying late to work on a deadline project or to finish the twenty things on your task list probably makes you feel a bit nobler than your cubicle-mate (who jets out the door as soon as that wall clock strikes 5 p.m.). There’s a sense of pride that comes with being in charge, having employees “under you,” and being the one that comes in at 5 a.m. and then stays late, burning the midnight oil.

But, working long hours is exhausting. And having nothing on your paycheck to show for it should cause you to consider changing the way you approach your business or your job.

Nearly 40 percent of Americans work more than 50 hours per week, according to a study from the American Psychological Association. Now, as heroic as those long, industrious hours may seem, a recent study claims that overtime could land you in the hospital – yes, the hospital.

People who report stress at work are 68 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who report no stress at work, according to research from University College London (UCL).

So sidetrack the medical bills and simply make a few adjustments to the way you approach your job or your business, and you could experience freedom and wealth that come from working less and making more.

1)   Humble yourself. Stop priding yourself on being an expert at every facet of the business. Delegation is a must. You may be like the majority of people who dislike delegating because they believe the delegated task will “fall through the cracks,” and never happen, or it will get done, but not properly. By holding on to tasks, all you do is cause more stress and lead others to believe that you don’t trust them or don’t want them to take on new responsibilities. So delegate. And do it in writing, so the task being assigned is clear and detailed, has a due date, and can’t slip through the cracks. But never delegate an assignment and completely leave it up to the other person to make sure it is completed. Be accountable and follow up with your coworker to make sure the task is in progress or near completion. Maybe make Microsoft Outlook’s task feature your best friend.

2)   Create written documentation. Over 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first year, and 80 percent fail within the first 5 years, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. The single, major difference between a small, floundering company and a large, successful company is the large business employs documentation. This can’t wait until tomorrow. If you already own a small business, and you don’t have documentation, carve out time today, sit down, and develop a Strategic Objective for your business. This should define overall goals, methodology, and prescribe action. It should give direction for major and minor decisions. Like a mission statement, but punchier and more specific. Once you have the Strategic Objective, move on to your general operating principles. This should be a two to four page collection of guidelines for decision-making. And, third, you need written Working Procedures – instructions describing how the individual systems of the company or the job are to operate. You should have a written procedure for every recurring action that takes place in your work environment, including how to answer the phone, make a deposit, or call for repair of the copier.

3)   Eliminate time-wasters. If you own a business, your mission is to work hard but not long, to reduce the workweek by 95 percent, and to make more money than you require. If you have a job, the goal is to quickly ascend the management ranks until you can call your own shots. But no matter what your situation, if you are going to work, then work! Turn the radio off, get your feet off the desk, stop the pointless babbling with a coworker, and put your head down. Get in, do the work, and get out! Instead of checking e-mails 35 times a day, check 5 times a day, at designated times. Suggest polite ways for keeping a conversation moving along, especially if a long-winded coworker comes into your office for a “quick question,” then starts recapping last night’s episode of American Idol from start to finish. And what about staff meetings? Are they a waste of time? Yes, if you don’t have an agenda.

4)   Work for 98 percent perfection. Time and money wasted is time and money gone forever. And a waste of time and money means some other positive thing that could have happened, didn’t. Apply a “good enough” rule to your work:  A 100 percent flawless document that took forever to create carries an imbedded imperfection: The extra time spent creating the masterpiece – that extra 2 percent – is lost forever, therefore the finished product carries a taint and – catch 22 – you can never call it “perfect.” Your work and your written procedures should be “good enough,” so the desired results are consistently and efficiently produced.

See www.workthesystem.com for a free download on working less and making more.

About the Author: Sam Carpenter

In 1984, Sam founded Centratel, the number one commercial telephone answering service in the nation, located in Bend, Ore. With a background in engineering and publishing, he is a telephone answering service industry consultant, writer and speaker, and has served [...]