The 40 hour work week is so ingrained in our culture that even entrepreneurs use it as a measuring stick for how much they work.
More than 40? That's a lot. Less than 40? For some, that's the dream.
But every estimate of how much (or how hard) you should be working make one fatal mistake.
This mistake results in busyness instead of productivity. It results in anxiety instead of peace. It results in reduced capacity to think critically, navigate the world, and see the forest from the trees.
What is this fatal flaw?
They don't account for the way humans are designed to execute creative work.
Let me redefine it for you:
Creative work is focused, critical thinking, writing, or creation.
Work is not reading a book about email marketing. Work is studying and taking actionable notes on a book about email marketing.
Work isn't scrolling your IG feed looking at "what's working now." Work is creating space to think about what you need to learn, then identifying the best resource to acquire that knowledge, and going out to get it.
By this definition, most humans only work an hour or two a day. And certainly only a couple of hours at a time. The rest of their time is filled with meaningless tasks and trivialities that likely could be done by someone else or avoided altogether.
But maintaining this work on your schedule prevents you from truly doing creative work.
Creative work is meant to be done in sprints. An hour or two, followed by a period of resting and reflecting. Yet, by believing in busyness and hard work, we've engineered all of this rest and reflection out of our work lives.
Believing that you need to work a certain number of hours will force you to expand your work to be busy and fill the time, reducing your efficiency and effectiveness.
This busyness will impede your ability to sit with a blank schedule, your phone put away, and just think.
You will become anxious, constantly comparing how hard you work to the hardest hustlers on Twitter.
Remember: Work is not an end, it is a means to an end.
If you want your work to be more meaningful, you need to treat it like it's meaningful.
Ritualize your working process. Create a habit or routine that allows you to consistently create. Show up with intentionality and then leave with intentionality. Don't just "work" for hours on end.
Get in, get out, and then rest and reflect.