Cutting your work week down from 80 hours to 14 hours

The 80-hour work week

Many CEOs and leaders, including myself, suffer from an overwhelming desire to make sure the business they have founded is perfect. As the ultimate driver of high standards, you will be spotting little things every day that needs to be improved, checking up on the jobs you want doing and chasing the loose ends you want tying up.


As my business grew, this constant vigilance became overwhelming. I found myself working myself to the bone, doing 80-hour weeks without ever managing to get on top of things. I constantly felt like I needed to be in control. It was a miserable time for me, and since then I have found it astonishing how many other CEOs have businesses that are making them equally unhappy.


Process – the key to business freedom?

It seems strange but I initially put process in to control my team however what happened was a surprise to me. Process was the tool they needed to do a great job every time and when that started happening I started to gain this massive amount of trust in them. The more I trusted, the more empowered they became and the cycle continued.


Pretty soon I realised they needed to own and manage the processes themselves and when this happened suddenly 75 brains were driving the business forward rather than one. I was no longer bound to my business day and night. I went from working 80-hours a week as a hands-on micro-manager, to only working 14 hours a week as a strategic business leader.


Through implementing process the “right” way I was able to completely transform my company and my life – reducing my working hours down to a fifth of what they had been! I was able to let go and extract myself from all the day-to-day details, and drop my obsession with checking up on the work of all of my employees.


This shift meant that the business eventually ran itself, and I was able to sell to a multi-billion dollar US player and walk away. It wasn’t the extra hours that helped – but the structure I had put in place to equip staff with the tools they needed to confidently do their jobs well and consistently.


3 ways to recover your work-life balance

When I eventually sold my business, my team were pretty much running the business and didn’t really need me, due to the processes I had put in place. I was able to demonstrate to the purchasers that processes were being followed, and that employees embraced and took ownership of everything that went on.


When you first start to loosen the reins on your business and trust your staff and your processes, you will probably feel some initial discomfort. However, it’s all worth it when you realise how it will transform your life and make your business more successful. To kick-start your transformation and recover your work-life balance, there are three things I recommend:

  1. Accept that it’s ok not to have total control of your business. Other people can get involved and run it;

  2. Make sure your staff have tools to help them, so that they can run complex collaborative processes confidently and competently, without having to remember everything; and

  3. Remove yourself from any gaps in your business that you’ve been working on, and place trust in your staff to fill them.