20 Hours Work/Week > 40?

Our travels have been an interesting experiment in what it takes for me to have a “successful” work day. Generally, I’ve stuck to the 40 hour work week. Some days I’d get 6 hours in. Other days would be 10. But I’d probably average around 40 hours a week.

While on this trip, however, it’s probably closer to a 20 hours a week. The strange thing is, I feel just as productive. I’ve found a nice routine in working for an hour before the kids wake up. Then, spending the next couple hours with breakfast and a jog/run/hike with the family. Then back to a coffee house for 3 hours to make some progress.

With 40 hours a week, there would be times when I’d start to get frustrated with myself that I’m not being productive enough. Generally this happens when I’m trying to figure something out, and get deeper and deeper into a rabit whole that I shouldn’t be in. At these times, there is probably better things for me to do. 1) Have somebody else better than me try to solve the problem. 2) Spend time with family, or doing something outside of work I enjoy.

But, while on this trip, I’ve never reached that level of agitation. With roughly 3–4 hours a day, I don’t get burnt out, and I’m forced to outsource most of the work that I’d find myself in a rabbit hole on. I’m more intentional with how I spend the time. And it’s been very refreshing.

This is a harsh difference between what is generally expected as a prerequisite for a successful startup. Generally, startup founders talk about how hard life is. How it’s endless hours of grinding away. And sure, I’ve spent time doing that as well. I guess you could say that I’ve put in my time doing that. But it doesn’t have to always that way. At least, I don’t think it does. Tim Ferris would say that a 4 hour work week is sustainable. I still have to prove it to myself that 20 hours is.