And why not. The U.S. is one of the most over-worked developed countries in the world. Our mantra for generations has been to simply put more hours in when we want a bigger paycheck.
Yet … we all know there are outliers. I’m sure you can think of one. Everyone has that one guy or girl in the office that seems to never be there or be very busy. But then they (appear to) make way more money than the rest of us.
Maybe you know of a friend or family member that works fewer hours than you do, but they seem to be doing very well financially.
Are we jealous? Of course! Who wouldn’t want to have to do less and earn more?
With more money and more time to do what you really wanted to, you could spend more time with your loved ones and friends, do your hobbies, play golf, travel, etc. Some days just about anything sounds better than having to go to a cubicle, fill out useless reports, respond to emails, go to meetings, or whatever other things you dread when you’re at the office.
So how do we get there? How come some people enjoy this privilege while others don’t?
In this post, we’re going to explore two examples where working less and earning more was achievable. And it was all thanks to just ONE very important thing…
Working More to Work Less
I’ve been reading a really great book lately called How to Retire Early by Robert and Robin Charlton.
The book is the story of how this man and wife couple (with no kids) was able to retire by their early 40’s after just 15 years of saving!
So how did they do it?
The foundation of their story begins with one profound decision: They wanted to escape working.
Neither of them were necessarily “in love” with what they were doing for careers, and they dreamed of a day when they could travel and live abroad without financial burden.
Their goal wasn’t to work less, but to not have to work at all!
Earning more money but keeping the same standard of living expenses meant they would be able to save away more and more money every year for early retirement. That money would compound into a fortune so big that that one day be able to stop working and live off of 4 percent (give or take) of that money each year for the rest of their lives.
And so, ironically, they actually began their journey by “working more”.
Robert plunged himself into his career and began to take on more assignments at work. Eventually he ended up changing jobs, and that led to him earning a higher paid position.
His wife, Robin, also made some pretty significant career changes as well. She was earning a very small amount as a travel agent. Sensing this was an industry that was quickly dying out (and it was by the end of the 1990’s), she went back to school, got a nursing degree, and then started earning 3x more than she was before.
All this time, the two continued to save more and more for retirement each year. They went from saving just a few thousand dollars to over $40,000 annually for the last few years. Those savings quickly snowballed into all the money they would ever need to stop working completely and enjoy their standard of living.
The lesson here: By actually working harder for a few short years, this couple was able to shave almost 20 years off the standard retirement norm!
How’s that for working less and earning more?
Applying the 80/20 Rule
This couple isn’t the only one to have a positive experience with working less and making more money. I had some experience with this myself.
A few years back, I came to really understand something called the 80/20 rule from the book “The 4 Hour Workweek”.
In case you’ve never heard of it, the 80-20 principle is simple: 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. The idea then is to eliminate the 80% of things that are not helping you reach your goals, and redirect your efforts to the 20% that are. By doing so, you’ll stop wasting your time and increase your results.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized just how guilty I was of this. How many things in a day was I doing that didn’t really contribute at all to me being a better professional or earning more?
I began asking myself:
- Do I really need to respond to every single email right away?
- Do I really need to be involved in every decision or project?
- Do I really need to follow up on every single quote?
- Do I really have to solve every single problem?
- Do I really have to know everything about everything?
Of course not!
Instead, I began to lean out from the mundane and focus on my efforts on the things that actually mattered; the things that actually produced results!
Before every action, I would ask myself:
How is this going to bring me closer to MY goal?
How will this make me a better at what I want to do? … better as a professional and enhance my career? How will this be better for my company in the long run? How will I ultimately end up benefiting?
In doing so, I found myself moving away from being a jack of all trades and more specialized in niches within my industry that were interesting to me. I was developing a deeper understanding of some pretty complicated subjects, and I was really enjoying the challenge.
By not signing myself up for everything under the sun, I found myself taking home less and less work. I was also starting to really work less than I was before.
Did that hurt me financially?
NO! That year, I got a HUGE bonus check. Then, as if that wasn’t good enough, the following year I got an even bigger profit sharing bonus – the biggest I had ever received in my life!
The lesson learned: Doing more isn’t what gets rewarded. It’s what you know and what you do with it that employers reward.
Plus: Money wasn’t the only reward. By working less, I was instead spending my time where I needed it: with my family, laughing at our favorite shows and simply enjoying their company.
I was finding a better work-life balance. I was taking back what was mine: Time.
And it was paying off: Both mentally as well as financially.
The Key is “Focus”
In both examples, there was one common thing that led to making more money and less work:
In the first example, when the Charlton’s decided that an early retirement was something they desperately wanted to achieve within 15 years, it became clear to them what they had to do. They had to focus on earning more money to save more money, even if that meant some pretty dramatic changes to their careers in the short run.
But eventually it paid off! Through disciplined saving and investing, they were able to retire 20 years ahead of when most people typically do. Now they enjoy traveling abroad living in different countries and doing the kinds of things that most people only dream about.
In the second example, once I began to focus on the more actionable aspects of my job and really devote my attention to learning the kinds of things that would enhance me as a professional, my compensation really started to pick up steam fast. This is because employers like it when people produce results; and they value those that can produce the kinds of things that no one else can.
I’m sure there are many more examples that demonstrate that it is possible to work less and make more money. In your own lives, I’d encourage you to find the thing you should be focusing on. Experiment and test to see which things work for your situation. As you keep on chipping away, the answers will slowly reveal themselves, and you’ll discover a pattern that works for your particular situation. It’s there if you’re willing to go find it. Yes, it may even require a bit more work in the short run. But over the long haul, the benefit will pay dividends for life.
Readers – How do you get away with working less and making more money? What’s your secret?
Featured image courtesy of Scott Moore | Flickr