As a freelancer and small business owner, I have always struggled with structure. The kind that has me change out of my pjs, that tells me when I should be pitching for new work, when I should be creating more content, or when I should be marketing what I already have created. The kind of structure that makes sure I am working efficiently and not just busily. Enter the 50 Hour Challenge.
Workflow for freelancers, work-from-home career folks, and musicians has always been a topic of great interest to me. I have tried everything to get the most structure as I could, from scheduling every minute of my day to having accountability buddies check in with me. My tricks and tactics worked to keep me in line and in action, but I was still not seeing the results I wanted. I knew that if I wanted different results, I needed to take different actions.
Time for Change
I decided to take on a month-long challenge of timing my work and working for 50 hours a week. JUST work.
There are a few apps that can help you in this challenge that let you time tasks as you do them, categorize the different actions you take, and retroactively add in how you spent your time. Time Doctor is one. I used Toggl as my timer.
The timer went on when I was working, and it went off when I was eating, traveling, on Facebook, etc etc. My 50 hours was JUST working. The intention of this challenge was twofold: to see how much work I was actually doing, and to try something new to get new results.
What happens when the timer goes on and the work gets done? Miracles.
The results after one month?
• Increased the number of commercial opportunities by 300% by the end of the month.
• Gained twice as many new clients in the month than I had averaged for the past year.
• Finished two projects that I had started in the past 6 months that weren’t scheduled to finish for another 3-6 months.
• Started another two projects that had been in the back of my mind for years. They are now fully underway.
The 50 Hour Challenge
The challenge was hard, but it was a huge eye-opener. Here is why I recommend you take on the same task:
1. Get a reality check. I had no idea how much time I spent in a week actually working. I felt like I worked a lot. Some of that feeling came from the stress of having to create my own sources of income. Some of those feelings came from spending big bursts of energy on short projects. To know I was working 50 hours during the week provided a sense of accomplishment and purpose. When I normally would have ended my day, I found extra things to do just to add up some more hours. And the extra things I did were things I normally would have put on the back burner. Procrastination was out of the picture when the clock was ticking.
2. Results are a numbers game. I used to think that if I work x hours a week, I get y number results and if I work 3x hours a week, I get 3y results. There is some truth to this for me, but through this experiment I have seen the value of working effectively to produce results. While I haven’t yet tested out additional months (stay tuned for an updated report), I DO know that I had previously worked less than 50 hours a week. In fact, I would take a guess that I worked 30-40 hours a week, on average, perhaps less. As a freelancer and small business owner, this challenge showed me that the more time I spent doing effective work, the more results show up. And the key word here is effective, which is why some people can make their millions with a four hour workweek (so I heard).
3. The universe is watching. This may sound a bit hippy-dippy, but by taking on this challenge, it was like I was telling the universe that I was willing to do the work to get more results, thus more opportunities showed up. Almost like I had proven myself. You get what you give. That sort of thing.
4. It creates a foundation for long term results. These are hard to measure at this point, but I do believe that sometimes I do research and out-reach and don’t reap the benefits for weeks, sometimes months, even years. Putting in 50 hours of a variety of work a week ensures that I will continue to see benefits even after the challenge ended. I have planted seeds and will continue to do so until the harvest.
5. You can find more time. I couldn’t believe how “busy” I used to say I was. But when I was competing against a clock, I came up with new ideas to propel my business forward that I wouldn’t have come up with if I wasn’t trying to fill a 10-hour day. Somehow I found the time to start these new endeavors and begin working on them. I shifted from trying to fill a day, to wanting the day to be longer.
This challenge showed me how to be much more efficient with the time I spent working, and the structure of keeping track of what I was doing allowed me to be mindful of the work, therefore more efficient. I’d love to hear any structures YOU’ve put in place, or if you are up to this thirty-day challenge to see what you can shift for you and your business! Comment below with your results!