Productive Output Update

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my productive output post where I declared that I would never work more than 35 hours in a week again (see Productive Output:  What the 9-5 Misses and Why I’m Done with a 40 Hour Workweek). It was only two months ago, but a lot has changed since then.

At the time I had just come off of 2+ years of pushing my entire life aside.  In college I worked hard, but I played hard too.  I might not have partied as much as some of my friends (some of which are still in college by the way) but I kept what I thought was a solid balance for someone in an intense engineering program at a top school.  However, once I left my career I didn’t care about balance:  I cared about being an entrepreneur and everything that came with it.  I had the proverbial chip on my shoulder and I was dead focused on kicking ass.

When I moved into the apartment that I’m currently residing in back in May, I took it as the opportunity to “turn on” my social life again.  We had finally reached a point of stability and I realized I needed to phase back in some of the things I’d pushed aside.  The intention when I left my career was never to work 75 hour weeks, neglect family/friends, and teeter on the line of burning myself out.  But the everlasting (self-induced) pressure to make our company a success drove me so hard that – on occasion – I asked myself if I knew what I was doing or if I was just fooling myself and unknowingly becoming a workaholic.  A workaholic that would never recover no matter how much success he had, just because I had become accustomed to it and knew no other way.

I needed to prove to myself that I could have balance and still live the entrepreneurial dream.  So I wrote the post.  I needed the challenge.  It worked.  I began intensely focusing on my 6-7 hours a day and banging through 9 hours of work in 7 just because I was excited at the potential of some true free time after I got finished. All of a sudden my entire day wasn’t based around how much work I could get done.  Pretty quickly I got to the point where 7 nights a week I had plans with friends or family, many of which I saw sparingly the past few years.  Every night something else was going on.  I’ll admit – it was pretty cool coming from a point where I only got out of the house on a non-work related outing once every few weeks.

Of course, this type of social schedule is too much over time for someone like myself  (I proclaim myself to be 50% introverted and 50% extroverted – a convenient even split).  So the past few weeks I’ve still kept my 35 hour rule in effect, but I have made sure I have a few nights a week to myself to read, play video games, catch up on sleep, or run errands.  Of course, a funny thing has happened:  I’ve been getting the itch to use that free time to tackle some of the “secondary” projects like the revamp of SportsLizard or a totally new site (crazy idea) that I’ve been working on.  I call these projects “10%” projects after Google’s 70/20/10 policy where  employees get 10% of their time to work on anything they want, the idea being that very innovative products often come out of the wacky creative projects when people are allowed to think outside the box.  I define “10% time” as time I spend working on non e-commerce projects, seeing as we’re getting 99% of our revenue from our e-commerce sites.  I could spend every waking second on our shopping cart and other e-commerce stuff.  It’s never ending.  We’re growing fast as it is.  There’s definitely a need to cap this work or the potential for burnout definitely exists.

For two years I pushed really hard and my business-life balance was a bit out of whack.  Considering my non-work life is something I highly value, it was only natural that I went the other direction for a few months and loaded up my social life.  Now I feel like I’m settling into a balance that I’ll hopefully keep for the next few years…until we have a few employees and I don’t have any day-to-day responsibilities, which will likely be a whole new adventure for me.  For now I’m still going to keep my “35 hour rule”.  Nights and weekends will always be open for social stuff, but I’m going to still try to get 2-3 nights a week where I can just relax and do whatever I want.  And most likely, what I want to do will include quite a bit of 10% work.

So there’s a new caveat to the rule:   I am limiting myself to 35 hours a week of work – with the same “rules” as before – except that I can spend as much “10% time” as I want.

I know, I know.  The list of things that I can do above and beyond 35 hours is getting pretty long.  Then again, the line between what is “work” and what is “fun” for me has never been 100% clear anyway.   That’s what makes me one of the lucky ones.  I get to do something every day that is fun, exciting, satisfying, and can pay the bills.  Can’t get much better than that.


*Besides, the most important thing to take away from the productive output post is that efficiency and productivity are more important than hours of work put in.  Results are great.  Results with minimal time/effort are what businesses should really be looking for.


Minor Blog  News:  I added a “Most Popular Posts” section to the sidebar.  My initial idea was to do a “Best of” section for new readers to familiarize themselves with the site.  Then I realized that I have 440 posts and combing through those would take forever.  So I just auto-pulled a list based upon most commented posts and called it a day.  Maybe for post 500 I’ll do a comprehensive list of my favorite posts…we’ll see.

5 comments on Productive Output Update

  1. George says:

    Adam, great post. I too find myself in a similar dilemma where you question how much work your putting in compared to your social life. Being single again has forced me to become more socially active and it definitely is taking a strain on some of that extra time I had to work on furthering myself with the business or side projects. At the same time, I feel the balance has helped me focus on those key times I am doing work and productivity may have jumped a little during the hours I am working.

    This is a big struggle any entrepreneur faces. You can’t be happy with yourself if you work 100% of the time, but you can’t be successful if you only work 10% of the time. Finding the right balance to succeed in business and socially is a struggle for many.

    Great read, I always admire how much work you get done in a day, it’s truly impressive.


  2. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks George, always appreciate it when you take the time to chime in 🙂

  3. George says:

    Seems we talk about it in person all the time, I should put my thoughts down more often for others to read.

  4. nethy says:

    “the line between what is “work” and what is “fun” for me has never been 100% clear anyway”
    That’s an interesting thing actually. I think it’s a bit of an artificial split anyway.

    You definitely have a clear split in high school, or in a factory job or a lot of other ‘normal lives’. But that ‘normality’ is mostly an industrial age thing really. Still in nappies if you put it in perspective.

    If your a hunter-gatherer you don’t have a work/play divide.

    ‘Work Life Balance’ (a real buzzword down here at the moment) feels like an uncomfortable workaround to me. Like the cosmological constant or NOMA. Maybe you should be doing different sorts of things with your day but I don’t think that the solution to working too much is creating a bigger distinction between work & play.

    I don’t have any better solutions though.

  5. Scott Fox says:

    Congrats on being so aware of these balance issues in your life, Adam. We all know people who tilt too far toward work or play and wake up when they’re 40 or 50 and wonder what went wrong.

    @Nethy – very interesting point about balance being an industrial age construct.

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