Not Enough Hours in a Day? This Is for You

Auriane Alix
It’s time for spring cleaning.
Photo by Surface on Unsplash

I still remember that day last year. I had just finished a 7-hour workday, I had accomplished a lot of things, but I didn’t feel satisfied. The day was over, but my brain was knotting up. I felt guilty for not having done this and that when I had done so many other things. I felt agitated, emotionally tired, and panicked about all the things I had left to do.

Whereas, normally, after a good day of productive work, you should feel calm inside, soothed by what you have accomplished.

I felt that 24 hours a day was not nearly enough.

So I did what I do most often when I’m lost. I went to see my Mom for advice.

The issue was much deeper than I thought

Whenever I have something on my mind, I know I can count on my Mom. She understood how I felt because she had already experienced the same feeling. We talked for at least an hour, and gradually the magic happened.

The more I talked, the more I tried to put the right words to my feelings, the more I felt like I was digging inside myself. I dug deeper and deeper. Each sentence came closer to the real problem, using the words as a ladder to reach the top of my truth.

At some point, I stopped and realized how far I had come. We weren’t even talking about the first feeling, the one that gave birth to the conversation. We had been digging until my childhood, the spirit of excellence I was raised in, and how it influences me now. I discovered that I couldn’t find a balance between work and free time, because I felt guilty as soon as I stopped working.

I felt that by covering a multitude of different tasks every day, I was increasing my efficiency and my chances of professional success. So I divided my working time between a thousand and one different tasks.

This was the worst strategy.

Of two things, one. Better focus your efforts on one or two tasks than to divide its power onto many. Second, most of the work you do is completely useless.

Work better, work less

No matter what makes you work for 8 hours or more a day, let it all go. The number of hours you work does not determine your value.

My problem was the pursuit of excellence. But I was pursuing it the wrong way. I wanted to succeed in life, and ended up staring at my computer for hours on end, trying to do as many things as possible, in a multitude of different projects at the same time.

It was nonsense. It was a dead end. It was gnawing at me and slowly dragging me to exhaustion.

It took me a while after this conversation to finally come up with this answer, which has now changed my overwhelming life for something much calmer, more focused and balanced. I went from working 6 hours to 2 hours. And the funny thing is that I made more money.

That’s when I realized the crucial point.

It’s about working better, and working on less.

It’s time for spring cleaning

If you timed the hours of concentrated, deep and meaningful work you do each day, it would not exceed 3 hours. Our ability to focus is limited. Once this capacity is exhausted, you fill the rest of your day with useless tasks that satisfy nothing but your professional conscience.

Checking and replying to emails, creating complicated spreadsheets, publishing on Instagram to “expand my community”, sending newsletters… All of this kept me busy, and made me feel organized, in control, and on the road to success.

The truth is that the only thing that earned me money and made me happy to go to work was writing. And I only spent 2 or 3 hours a day on it, because the rest of my time and energy was divided between these other tasks. Which, let’s be honest, were useless. I received almost no new readers via Instagram. My newsletters didn’t contribute much. My spreadsheets contributed even less.

I did a big cleanup. I completely dropped Instagram and the spreadsheets. I reduced my newsletter and email tasks by grouping them in batches. And I concentrated all my energy on writing. Which is what I enjoy, and what I make my living from.

And suddenly my days had enough 24 hours to do everything I wanted to do. I was much more focused, I had a lot more energy, I was more successful, and I even had tons of free time to have fun, to learn or to do sports: things that help me find my balance and rest my attention span.

Final thoughts

Set yourself two tasks to accomplish each day. Once they are completed, you can go back to living. Anything more is not necessary. Don’t fall into Tim Ferriss’ “work for work” trap.

You have enough of 24 hours in a day as long as you don’t divide your time between trivial tasks. In the end, you’re afraid of idleness.

The fact is that only 1 or 2 of the tasks you do on a daily basis bear fruits. They are the ones you need to focus on. Work less, but work better. And when you work better, you’re more successful, and you earn more money while having peace of mind and a sense of a job well done.

Be minimalist in your work. Focus on what really matters. Sure, it’s scary. It’s much easier to respond to my emails than it is to write a story. But I’d much rather work 3 hours a day on the important things and have the rest of my time to myself than waste my time on tasks that don’t add up.

Do your spring cleaning. Identify the tasks that bring real value to your work, and focus only on them.

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