One Hour Less

You should spend one hour less per week on most things that you spend multiple hours on.

The marginal benefit of the “last” hour of any multi-hour investment is pretty low in most cases. Consider: if you work 40 hours per week, you would stand to benefit quite a lot by only working 39 instead.

From a productivity standpoint, there’s virtually nothing you can get done in 40 hours that you can’t get done in 39. We have a tendency to let our work fill the time we set aside for it, no matter what that time is. If you schedule three hours on a Sunday to clean your house, then it will take three hours. If you only schedule two, then it will take two – but the same amount of work will generally get done. So if you shorten your time budget by an hour, you generally don’t lose anything.

But hey – if you only work 39 hours, you’ll only get paid for 39 hours instead of 40. So you will lose something! Sure, but you stand to gain more. First, consider whether or not you’d be willing to trade one hour’s pay to get out of work an hour earlier on Friday. For many people, they happily would – so for those people, they’re already losing by not making that trade. They’re paying more in happiness than they’re gaining.

But let’s say you’re very money-motivated, and you’d rather have an extra hour’s pay than an extra hour. Well, you should still work 39 hours, then. When it comes to making money, the first hour is usually the most profitable, because lots of things can make you money but don’t scale well. If you’ve ever freelanced, you know this: you can often make a high hourly rate but find it difficult to consistently get a lot of hours. But it’s often easy to secure one hour per week, even at a high rate! In fact, if you charge a very high rate, you might only get one hour per week.

But imagine you did that. Imagine you posted on a freelancer site like Upwork with your skill set and an extremely high rate, then gradually lowered it until you got an hour-long task, then stopped. You’d work one hour, and get a good bit of money. If you also had a full-time job, chances are that the one hour of freelance work would pay more than one hour of your day job.

So even if you’re money-motivated, working 39 hours instead of 40 can make you more money, if you then trade the hour back in for a larger amount of money. You might not be able to do that with all 40 hours, but you can almost certainly do it with one – no matter what you do for a living, there’s a good chance that you could make more in one hour than your average hourly rate by doing something else.

Why? Because a steady paycheck is, in and of itself, a benefit that has value. People like getting a consistent, secure amount of income, so they’re willing to take less in order to do so. People who charge $200/hour for single hours of work might be willing to take $3,000/week for 40 hours, simply because they wouldn’t have to constantly be chasing those hours, uncertain of where the final number would land, etc. Since that’s true, we can surmise that there will almost always be something out there that is less certain but more lucrative per hour than your current steady job, if you have one.

There are also a lot of benefits to diversifying your income, experimenting with new things, meeting new people, etc. But those are just gravy!

The point is, think about everything you do in a week that you spend 5 or more hours on total. If you shaved off just one hour per week, virtually none of those things would suffer. But you’d have a whole lot of new resources to play with. Or, maybe just free time – for many, a reward in itself.

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