He was the owner of a very busy printing business and until about two years earlier had constantly left work about 8pm, due to the work load. His staff of 10 also worked really long hours.
Just before his first baby was due, he had an epiphany. It struck him that if he was ever to see his coming child he needed to change his ways. He was also a keen sailor but at the time frustrated with how seldom he got out on the water. Instead, his boat was growing weed and barnacles as it languished on the marina. Hard on the heels of this introspection came the awareness that if the work hours were having a negative impact on him, his staff might also be having problems.
So he decided he had to put a stop to the long hours, even if it had a negative impact on their profitability.
‘From now on we all leave the premises by 6pm, me included,’ he announced one day.
The result was startling. Not only did people get their work done by 6pm but the profitability of the firm increased. What they all realised was that, when they had less hours in which to get the work done, they were focused and worked more efficiently. Also, because everyone had more free time they came into work rested and fresh.
There’s also a further element to this scenario – the power of the words out of our mouth. Previously he’d said, ‘We have to work late. There’s so much work that long hours is the only way to keep on top of it.’ The new phrase became, ‘We do our work within an 8 or 9 hour work day, efficiently and profitably. We leave work by 6 pm at the latest, knowing that we’ve done our best.’
How often do you hear people say: ‘I’m flat out’, ‘I’ve hardly time to think’, ‘I’m exhausted with all this work on’ or ‘There’s never enough hours in the day’?
At first listening it sounds positive. After all, if we’re really busy we’re probably making money. We all want to know our income is secure. For many, an abundance of work equals income. But maybe there are other ways to look at the situation.
Our language is powerful. When we tell ourselves and everyone around us that we don’t have enough time or we’re too busy or too tired or exhausted (any variation will do!), that message becomes part of a loop between our speech and our subconscious. The trusty subconscious says, ‘You want tired, or too much to do, or hardly time to think? OK, I’ll organise that for you. Coming right up.’
James Allen in his classic little essay ‘As a man thinketh’, written in 1902 and still available in bookshops today, has devoted his whole essay to the topic. (It’s now in the public domain if you want to get a digital copy).
Here’s just one quote: ‘The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are factors, which make for the ultimate good of the individual.’
Here’s to enjoying work and watching my words!