How to Work Less Today by Building Value

Photo by karindalziel.

By Josh Rueff on July 02, 2013

Is it possible to work less and still earn more than enough to survive and enjoy life?

First of all, why would you want to work less? Same reason you’d want to eat less fat or salt – in America we get too much of these things in our diet, and as a result, we have high blood pressure, less energy, and fat bottoms.

If we utilize the principles of minimalism, we’re able to cut away the excess to create a healthier lifestyle.

The same concept applies to work – we work too much. There I said it. If you ever wonder why our divorce rate is so high – why depression levels are skyrocketing, and why therapists earn three figures by sitting in a comfy chair asking questions – look at our work habits. If work takes up nearly half everyone’s day, and sleep devours the rest, how does anyone expect to hold on to anything beyond their work and sleep habits?

In a previous post “The Golden Age: 12 Hour Workweek”, I rooted around the idea of working less, and showed how historically, people have worked as little as 12 hours a week to earn everything they need and more.

That sounds pretty enticing I know, but here’s the catch: Those people were hunter-gatherers. So if you don’t mind living in a tent (my wife won’t let me), killing your own meat, and gathering your own veggies, you’re set to go.

For the rest of us, we need to find another way.

How to Work Less in the Digital Age

To work less and still earn more than enough, you have two options:

1. Convince your employer to let you make your own schedule: This can be nearly impossible for many, but there are a number of businesses that have a high potential to allow this. 100% commission sales positions are an extreme example of such a job. No one cares how much or little you work because the bottom line is what counts. And that “bottom line” is what counts most in just about any job or business – it’s your value.

2. Lose the employer and start your own business: This is a more viable option, albeit far more risky one. If you’re addicted to safety and pay great attention to safeguarding yourself from perils, like most people, read my post about Plato’s “Myth of the Cave” – it’ll help you get a better perspective on things. Freelancers, contractors, sole proprietors, and many others have taken the leap that so many don’t because of their lack of independence. That’s not to say working for someone is bad – people that own their own businesses rely on other people as well. The difference is the level of freedom to choose one’s schedule. When you own your own business (a successful one at least), you have  more control over the most important element you can possibly have control over: Time.

And yet you still need to have value.

The most important factor in achieving the ability to work less while incrementally earning more is your name.

Not your first or last name (necessarily) – your reputation, which is really just another word for perceived value.

Your skill or ability has to:

1. Provide value: Your ability to help the people you work with or for is what will make or break your success factor. If you’re a writer, ask yourself why someone would value your writing, especially over other people’s writing. If you’re a doctor, ask yourself how your help is worth it for your patients, especially in comparison to other doctors.

2. Be known: Having the ability to help is not always enough. People need to see how you can help, and how well you can help. Once you’ve developed a reputation of value across a wide enough base, you’ll have more freedom than most – freedom to live life to it’s fullest and work less.

In a book I’m currently writing, I observed Hugh Howey as an example for developing reputation:

…at the age of 38, he rapidly became one of science fiction’s best selling authors, and started pulling in the modest income of $120,000 – a month. So what happened between wandering dropout and world class authorship? 

The answer is simple: Personal branding.

Hugh Howey rose to success with three simple actions:

1. He published his ebook on Amazon.

2. He built a foundation for his soon to grow reputation with Facebook.

3. He established a personal blog and forum.

That’s quite literally how simple it is.

Howey uses other social media sites now as well, but his first wave of success built momentum off of those 3 simple steps. Having a blog, ebook, and Facebook isn’t enough of course. Millions of people have all of those things. But not everyone has value to offer. Like we covered earlier, reputation is only built by offering proof of value. It can be hard to know if our offering will be considered valuable, but the only way to find out is by putting it out there.

Oversimplified though it may seem, the key to working less is as basic as that. Hone your skill and use it to help people. Make sure people can see what you’re doing, and let them do the bragging for you.

That’s how reputation is built, and that’s how you earn complete control over your work time.

Before I forget, take a look at this bonus hint:

The most important and fulfilling aspect is achieving value through your ability to help others, but we can’t overlook the importance of ridding yourself of the urge to buy. Read How Consumerism Shapes our Lifestyles for more info.

The more value others perceive in you, the less time you’ll have to work – that is, if you play your cards right. You need to have your course set toward the right destination. Most people let others do the steering – if you want control over your time and the luxury of working less, you have to set your own course.

Good luck!