“Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” –Elon Musk, founder of Space-X and Tesla
“The way we measure productivity is flawed.” –Tim Ferriss, author of “The Four-Hour Work Week”
Two nationally-recognized thought leaders. Two completely opposite opinions. One, Elon Musk, says we need to work longer hours; the other, Tim Ferriss, says we should be more productive in the hours we have. Who is correct?
You’ve already figured out my vote.
Elon Musk recently made waves in a Twitter conversation by saying his employees should work 80 to 100 hours a week to “change the world.” Musk himself has been known to put in 100-hour work weeks on a regular basis, even sleeping on the floor of his factories. While Musk (despite recent controversies) has definitely been an innovator on the world stage, the fact remains that most people don’t have the stamina to put in 80 to 100 hours of work per week—even at jobs or projects they are passionate about.
What the Science Says
Regardless of Musk’s presumably scientific mind, science itself seems to fly in the face of his recommendation on this point.
In 1955, Cyril Parkinson postulated that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, if you have 20 hours to do a project, it will take you 20 hours. If you have 10 hours to do the same project, you can almost always get it done in 10.
This principle, referred to as “Parkinson’s Law,” has been a subject of debate, but recent tests seem to have proven the point. The New York Times, for example, reports that a New Zealand company that reduced its work week from five days to four discovered that its employees had a better work-life balance, were more productive and got the same amount of work done in four days as they once did in five. In similar manner, a Swedish elder care facility that reduced their 8-hour workdays to 6 hours found their nurses were happier and more productive. If we can get as much done in six hours as in eight, why would an 80-hour work week be more productive than a 40-hour one?
Prioritize for More Productivity
In his book The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller refers to the “domino” principle which says one domino can knock down many others when the dominos are properly aligned. He points out even further that one falling domino actually has the ability to knock down a domino fifty percent larger than itself. In an experiment with eight dominos created in progressively larger sizes, a San Francisco physicist was able to knock over a domino three feet tall by tipping over a domino two inches high. The underlying idea: Focusing energy on our most important priorities can cause us to be far more productive in less time than simply working longer hours.
What do these musings mean for your law firm? Yes, you do need to work hard, especially at the beginning. No, you do not need to put in 100 hours a week—in fact, I highly recommend against it. Instead, focus on the priorities that are most important for your firm—the small dominos that will knock over the larger ones—and you’ll find you are far more productive in the hours you put in. To learn more about what those priorities should be for your firm, give us a call at (888) 207-2869.