Working too much was the biggest regret she had looking back at her life….
When I’m in my 80s, I don’t want to be this woman. I don’t want to feel like I missed out on my life because I slipped into the habit of working too much.
So I did some things to make sure this wasn’t going to be me and The Live Life Project was born.
But the sad truth is, more and more of us are Googling this very thing. And it’s a world wide phenomenon. We are literally going to Google en masse to search for answers. In a clear upward trend over the last 15 years, we as humans are searching for more.
Well in this post we’re going to give you some answers. We’re going to share 10 legitimate ways to avoid the 24/7 work trap, win back your life, and put a smile on the dial of your 80 year old self.
Working too much? You’re not alone
Here’s a scary picture – the 15 year trend of Google searches for the words “working too much’. See the pronounced upward trajectory? And the data doesn’t even include the impact of global work-from-home changes during 2020. People in the US, Canada, the Phillipines, the UK and good old Oz are feeling the most overworked.
How much of your life is spent at work?
Have you ever wondered how much of your life you’re going to end up spending at work?
Take a look at this table we’ve pulled together. Try not to completely flip your lid about how much of your adult life you’re going to spend at work if you keep on doing what you’ve always done.
The average work week is around about 40 hours which means the average person is going to spend 10 years straight at work, during their adult life. If you’re working 70 to 80 hours, then be prepared to spend a total of 18 to 21 years (solid) of your adult life at work.
|LIFE SPENT WORKING
|% OF ADULT LIFE
|20 hours per week
|30 hours per week
|40 hours per week
|50 hours per week
|60 hours per week
|70 hours per week
|80 hours per week
Why are you working too much?
Before we get to how to avoid the 24/7 work trap, here are 10 common reasons people work long hours:
- You love your work – this can be a legit reason you’re working long hours, but if you’re googling ‘working too much’ its unlikely to be why you’re here.
- Systemic expectation – we are part of a system that educates that we have to work to live. We learn to believe that the more and the harder we work, the better off we’ll be. We at The LLP we don’t buy it. There are other options!
- Workplace culture – your workplace rewards long hours over outcomes. You’ve got to fit in.
- Expanding lifestyle – you’ve got more and bigger bills to pay. Most of us experience lifestyle creep as our earning capacity increases. But it can be a total trap. The more you earn, the more you spend, the more you have to work. Until you’re 80 and full of regret that you missed your life.
- Your examples in life – your parents taught you to get a good job and work hard. So you did.
- Your own notions of success – equating working long hours with doing a good job is common but it’s rarely accurate.
- Avoidance strategy – you’re spending more time at work to avoid your life, and whatever is going on it.
- Upward management – you’re not that great at managing the never-ending expectations of your boss, or you’re covering for them.
- Poor work from home boundaries – you feel compelled (or obligated) to stay at work, even though its home time, because your work is at home with you.
- To make more money – you’re paid by the hour and you want to increase your income (irrespective of your lifestyle) so you work more hours.
A recent UK study found the most common reasons for working longer hours is more pay, where overtime was paid. The Economist surveyed people in 65 countries during 2020 and found that people working from home were working longer days.
But would we totally blow your mind if we said this:
The 40 hour work week is a relic of the industrial age.
Because that’s where it comes from. Things have changed since 1817. Technology, lifestyles and ways to make money have changed. So why hasn’t our thinking changed with it?
How to avoid working too much
If you stand back and take a look it, most of the 10 reasons we’ve listed above relate back to three things; values, education and finances.
So we’re going to tackle the issue at its root cause. We’re not going to tell you to get another job or go home earlier. Instead we’re going to offer you a different perspective and some more choices! If any of those 10 reasons above sound like you, here’s some ‘hopium’ that there is another way!
10 ways to stop working too much and avoid the 24/7 work trap:
1. Re-frame how you think about work
I totally understand how your personal beliefs about your self worth can be attached to what you do for work. Mine was. Our DNA is coded to think this way. We’re educated to think this way. We even introduce ourselves and socialise based on ‘what we do’.
But ponder it for just a second. Does working for 45 years so that you can live the life you want once you get to 65 even make sense to you? We’re here to encourage you to think your own thoughts. Tread your own path. Determine your own financial future.
2. Re-train your money brain (or at least read these books on your commute)
Money doesn’t have to come from a job. Only around 25% of our income is classed as ‘earned income”. So number 2 is about broadening your earning potential.That doesn’t mean heading back to university or doing a work sponsored training course. You need to swat up on your personal finance knowledge.
Learn the things about money that aren’t taught in school. Learn the things they don’t want you to know. Read these books. But be ready. These books will challenge what you think about work, life and money. They’ll also open doors to making money you couldn’t see before.
3. Work from home – with boundaries!
What if we said you’re working more hours just for the privilege of going to work? You can actually save a tonne of money – on things like coffees, transport, clothing, lunches – by working from home.
We saved $15,000 in one year working from home, which is the equivalent of a $20,000 pay rise (accounting for tax).
Just by working from home you can work one whole day less per week without impacting your financial situation.
Why? Because the cost of going to the office to work!
Check out this article where we show you how ….
But if you are going to work from home so you can work less, you have to set and stick to boundaries. Turn off the computer at home time. Make sure your boss understands this.
4. Cut your living costs
If you cut your living costs, you can cut your working hours.
Start with a budget and look at all of your monthly costs. For every expense over the last month, ask yourself: “How many more hours will I have to work to pay for this?”. Take the cost of any expense and divide it by your hourly wage to work this out.
This process makes me think about whether I really need that item or not and helps me pair back and stick to my budget each month.
Is a straight-off-the-showroom-floor SUV worth the extra 250 hours you’re going to have to work to pay for it? Or can you make do with a demo model? Do you really need Netflix and Stan and Amazon Prime?
Cutting your living costs will give you some breathing room so you don’t feel like you need to work all the time just to pay your bills.
“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”
5. Prioritise living life
Our time goes where our priorities are. When you’re about to ascend the Pearly Gates or whatever you believe, you’re probably not going to reflect at that moment on what a great work life you had. You’re more likely to think back on the richness of your life. Your family. Your friends. Your experiences. When you were happiest. So prioritise those things with your time!
“We have two lives and the second begins when we realise we only have one.”
6. Stop buying in to the “time for money” trade
Working more hours is not the only way to make more money. In fact, overtime may just be the hardest way to earn more money if you understand the rules of the money game. The more you trade your time for money, the more tax you’ll pay. It’s just how the system has been set up.
Instead of working more hours or getting a raise, think about starting your own side hustle. And don’t earn as an individual. There are more tax efficient ways if you want to keep more of the money you make. If this has piqued your interest, take a look at this post that explains how to make money so you get to keep more of it.
7. Diversify where your money comes from
If you only earn your income from your job, then it’s understandable you’d feel trapped into working more to earn more. But there are lots of different income streams other than earned income.
The freedom of multiple income streams gives you a greater sense of financial security and helps you set boundaries and say ‘no’ at work when the inevitable overtime expectations begin.
We have 5 different income streams that we’ve built up over time specifically because we don’t want to feel beholden to a job and an employer for our security.
It’s not something that you can do overnight, but if you never start you’ll never get there. For the traditionalists, dividend income and rental income are pretty common secondary income streams. But there’s a whole new world of making money online that is open for the taking. It’s not the ‘trading time for money’ kind of income you’re looking for. Instead, it’s income that pays you multiple times for the one piece of work. It’s called ‘leverage’, and if you want some more ideas about how to make money this way, check out our page about it here.
8. Divert your overtime hours into investing
If you’re tempted to work overtime for the extra money, spend this time on your next investment instead. I’ve refused opportunities for promotion at work because I knew they came with the expectation that I’d spend more of my time at work. Or they came with an ‘on call’ expectation. We say don’t give your time away so freely and easily – it’s the most precious thing you have! The one thing you can’t buy more of.
Instead of spending more time at work, spend it research investments and on investing. Use the knowledge you’ve learned from the books and resources we recommend here, and elsewhere. You don’t need to start with a fortune. But the sooner you do it the more you’ll benefit from the compound nature of investing.
Have you thought about joining an investment club or personal finance group? You can find them online and many are free. It may sound unrelated but if you’re surrounded by wage earners all working long hours, then maybe it’s catching. Just kidding. But it could be all you really see in front of you. Find some people who are doing things differently and hang out with them. Virtually or in real life. See how they make their money and what they do with their time. You might be inspired and you might find opportunities to work less that you could never have dreamt up yourself!
9. Resist the upsell on upsizing
Upsizing your lifestyle feels like the natural thing to do when you get a raise or a better job. The desire for more, for bigger for better – you earned it after all! It’s what your friends are doing; getting larger mortgages and fatter credit cards to buy bigger houses, better cars, more toys. But it’s also the very thing that is keeping a lot of high income earners working longer and longer hours. The question you might ask yourself if you’re working too much is: is bigger and flashier worth it?
“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”
– Naval Ravikant
Every time you upgrade your life, you’re committing to working more.
The desire to upsize your life is the modern version of indentured servitude in our view. Except your servitude is not to the middleman recruiter, it’s to your bank!
Earning more but keeping your lifestyle at the same level means you’ll have money left over to save and invest. Over decades, you’ll save hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage and car loan interest. This is money you can use to invest in assets that put money in your pocket so in the future you can work less!
10. Make finance a family affair
Let’s face it, your children are not going to learn anything useful about money at school. They’re just going to learn that the way to make money is to get a job. So it’s all going to come from you! We’d say, teach your children about the rules of money as you learn them yourself. This is what the rich do! Make saving and investing a family affair. Get everyone involved. Practice delayed gratification in front of your children. Explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. You may just face less friction when it comes to applying these steps so you can escape the 24/7 work trap. And chances are the ‘working too much’ cycle that you probably learned from your parents may just stop with you.