Yes, it’s true! On average, since 2012, my paid work (that is, maintaining my businesses) has taken about 3 hours per month to complete–I know because I’m a pretty compulsive tracker of things, following the principal of “good data helps you make good decisions,” besides just finding it interesting.
If I didn’t touch a computer or phone the other 31d * 17h/d – 3h = 524 waking hours every month, I wouldn’t have lost a dollar or seen my businesses shrink.
But this doesn’t mean I wasn’t “working” on other things. When people find out I’m unconventionally self-employed, the conversation sometimes turns to what a typical work week looks like, and I usually say something along the lines of
I’m almost never working and I’m almost always working.
The distinction is freedom of choice (what to do, when to do it, and where to do it), and the focus of that other work, which isn’t for money, or it’s for very speculative possible future earnings.
I also distribute my work in thin slices through the whole day, from waking at 8am to sleeping at 1am, almost every day of the week, so there isn’t a clear distinction between work time and life time–hence feeling like I’m always working and never working.
The upshot of this is my clients and customers love me!
Being nearly “always on” means I respond within minutes or hours 99% of the time except when I’m out of reception on a mountain or in the ocean.
I believe that one keen owner can provide better customer service than a fleet of employees, not just because of punctuality but because nobody knows the business better.
This only works because I don’t get a lot of inbound communication (by design).
So Where Does My Time Go?
Let’s start with where my time doesn’t go:
- I don’t own a TV
- I don’t watch Netflix
- I’m not a gamer (unless it’s a family activity)
- I don’t read fiction much (but would like to more again)
Okay, so I don’t work and I don’t veg out–what the heck do I do?
3 kids, for one thing! I take my job as parent pretty seriously: never used daycare, preschool, or babysitters, sometimes homeschooled when called for, always pick them up from school mid-afternoon. So that means lots of time at the playground and in the kitchen.
And now that they’re getting older, there’s more extracurricular activities after school. Each of which takes some amount of planning and scheduling and running around.
And I do it solo.
As any parent knows, parenting itself is already like 2 full time jobs.
Every home day must have at least ONE long walk or bike ride, usually 1-2 hours. I crave sunshine and fresh air, and Vancouver has trained me to get outside as soon as the sun shows itself through the clouds during winter because you don’t know when it’s coming back.
And it goes without saying that no work will be done on a hiking or climbing or ski day…
Travel planning can sometimes feel like a full-time job leading up to a trip. Then once on a trip, I usually stay off my computer, which means 2-4 weeks of no work, paid or otherwise. Eventually afterwards, photo sorting takes some time too.
Here’s where the concept of “work” becomes a little fuzzy. My time tracker tells me I spent an average of 3 hours a day on the computer over the last 5 years broken down into these uses:
|E-mail / Calendar
Most of this is personal, ie: work on myself and my life.
- Web browsing is a lot of research on subjects of interest
- E-mail is personal correspondence and planning and organizing (business e-mails are rare)
- Word processing is documenting research, book summaries, journaling
- Spreadsheets are for taxes and personal budgeting
Besides the 3 hours a month required to maintain my businesses, some of this computer time could be classified as work. Sure it doesn’t make me money and I don’t need to do it to live…
…but it might provide income or save time one day and it’s for that future expectation that I choose to do the work now.
Which by the way is pretty much my approach to entrepreneurship and work & life automation in general!
Categories of this type of work, along with meaningful volunteer work, include
- further automating processes so I can work less in the future: I’ll gladly work 3 hours unnecessarily today to save 5 minutes a month for the foreseeable future on repetitive tedious tasks
- testing speculative marketing ideas
- putting together proof-of-concepts for potential new businesses
- work on this personal blog, which is relatively new
- work on the uScale.org microentrepreneur advice forum
Keep In Mind
None of this would have been possible if I didn’t put in some hard work 10 years ago for free starting businesses without knowing if they’d succeed.
That time was an investment, and the freedoms I have now are the dividends.
That initial work is invisible when I talk about how much I work today, but it cost something then. But then again, even if that startup time was spread across the years to be more fully represented, it becomes less and less relevant the more good years that go by.
I don’t mind working. I just want to do it
- when I want (at night or on rainy days especially),
- where I want (at home with my music and fridge and park and family, with the freedom to head off around the world anytime),
- and to generally choose what I’m working on–if the task is painful, I’ll either find a way to automate it (preferably by computer), or eliminate it.
And then it doesn’t feel like work anymore 🙂
If this sort of work structure appeals to you, then please read on, I’ll explain how I made it happen!