Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Work Hard, Work Smart Or Both?

Is it working smart or being a clockwatcher?
I was chatting to a friend of mine who's trying to launch her own business. She starts work around 9.30 or so in the morning, and shuts down promptly between 16h00  and 17h00.

So I asked her how she ever gets everything done in such a short time, especially as, in my view, a new business needs lots of work and time.

And she told me that she does achieve the objectives that she sets for herself for the day, in the time she allocates for work. And she flatly refuses to work longer hours, she said, because it will just stress her.

I'm still dealing with the consequences of stress in my work life: developing an ulcer, sometimes being too tired to even be interested in work. And there's no doubt in my mind that I need to get better organised : write more in less time, spend less time at the computer, do critical tasks first so the sky does not fall if work overflows to another day, allocate more leisure time, be more physically active, eat better... okay... that's a long wish list.  But ja, I do need to slow down while accomplishing more.

But, I also continue to believe that hard work is needed to launch and grow a small business. And I still believe that working for yourself sometimes means giving up some personal time to accomplish certain goals.

Am I perhaps too entrenched in the "hard work" mindset and should heed my friend's point ( that is should be done during working hours and if it isn't, it can wait for tomorrow). Or is my friend's view of "working smart" just a good excuse for not putting in more effort than mimum in a task?


Corinna said...

Not knowing what kind of business your friend has set up a comment can only be generalist, but the fact that she has set herself office hours does not necessarily mean she is not working hard. It sounds as if she has set herself some ground rules and whether she manages to stick to that or not remains to be seen.

Perhaps she has just a few clients who pay her well [i.e proper rates], in which case she may well be doing okay like this - again, depending on what work she is doing.

I think overall, much of the problem with the VA industry as a whole is that clients in SA have a mindset about paying for such services as are generally offered [not talking you in particular here Damaria] and this is shown in what companies are prepared, or rather not prepared, to pay in the way of salaries anyway.

I am down in the Cape and there are so many jobs advertised, and people taking them, where the salary is as low as R1800/month and wanting you to be computer literate and have Pastel even - I kid you not, and given those sorts of salaries being offered to someone in an office it is hardly surprising that would be clients are not looking to pay 'living' rates for 'virtual' work.
Maybe this friend has got herself set up, as I suggested, with a couple of paying clients and she told them from the start that those are her hours.

A case of starting out as you mean to go on. And if that is so, hats off to her - please can she give us more information so we can work like this?

tiah said...

Hard to say not knowing the biz. Then again, all biz owners I know have to put a fair amount of work in. Actually, even employees in the US don't get to be a clock watcher.

I'm an American. There is a certain attitude, rightly or wrongly, brought to the work ethic mindset and ... as much as I agree that people can and do work too hard, in SA my experience is that professionalism is often lacking.

A lot of businesses fail in this area and too often it seems like the owner expected to be allowed to do whatever they liked time wise and the customers were just to work around them. Eventually you take your money somewhere else.

Damaria Senne said...

@corinna - She plans to sell advertising for online publishers. So her payment structure is different from my biz and yours. But you also raise a good point - taht some business types seem inclined to create slaves out of their owners than others.

@ Tiah - You raise good points with regard to customer service. But that's the kind of issue that only arises once you're under the illussion that your biz established, not at the beginning when you're still fighting to land and keep clients.

po said...

I think people have different work ethics! I think some can be productive for a short time and not stress about what still needs to be done. For me, if I have a big project to do that is hanging over me, I feel guilty if I do anything other than work on it, but obviously I can only work effectively on it for x hours, so for the rest of the time, instead of doing soemthing useful and productive, I hover around the internet saying "but I need to work on the project so I can't concentrate on anything else" and waste huge amounts of time. So I wish I was your friend!

tiah said...

Damaria, not exactly what I meant. The problem is, one can't do their job on the clock properly if they are not doing the other jobs off the clock. There is prep work involved before doors open / ready by the phone that if not done off hours means that the actual work will be compromised.

Like writing - blogging / marketing / networking, all are part of gathering a fan base and finding publishing leads. But these things must be done in addition to the word count, not as part of the word count.

Damaria Senne said...

@tiah - I like your writing/blogging/ analogy, maybe because it relates so easily to what I do. I blog here, promote this space, but I still have to write for pubs I submit to, client projects etc. I also believe that this is one of those instances where we can wait and see:
a) impact of this work approach on business development. Like Corinna, if it works brilliantly for her, I want one:-)
b) Impact on customer service - how well can she deliver to customers with that kind of approach

And let's all remember that we're talking about a small business that's just been launched, so the owner/manager is it. There is no one else to do the work when she doesn't.

Damaria Senne said...

@po- I think we were separated at birth:-)

And that approach is not necessarily productive either, I've learnt to my cost. Cos during those times, you're not resting, but you're not accomplishing much either.

Tamara said...

I think it's always a question of balance.

To me, new businesses need more nurturing and thus more time. But it's easy to get into the habit of working every available hour until people learn to expect you to be available outside of normal office hours and you forget that there are other important things in life besides work.

I'm trying to train myself not to take business calls after 6pm unless it's an actual emergency (clients' definition of this and mine tend to differ vastly). I need to learn to close down shop. Otherwise I will never get a break!

Rebecca A Emrich said...

for me, it has beomce more of a work life balance, but these days I have teh luxgury of being around for a while, and I think office hours is a great thing. I tend to do my work when family is not around, or can be close by. So it is a matter of relationships.

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