Time Management

Why Scheduling Beats Hustling Every Time

Unless you're a pinball frantically staying in motion without a plan will accomplish nothing.
Why Scheduling Beats Hustling Every Time
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4 min read
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Think about every successful person in business, sports, entertainment or politics who has ever given an interview. How many of them went on TV and said, “I never planned anything. I just worked 18 hours a day on whatever came across my desk and hoped things would work out.”

Maybe a few people get lucky that way, but not many. The truth is that scheduling and planning -- not mindless hustle -- are the keys to success in modern startup culture.

Smart scheduling doesn’t mean micromanaging each day, though. On the contrary, people who overschedule their lives suffer nearly as much those who sleepwalk through. One study published in 2016 even found that people who schedule their fun do not reap the same productivity benefits from their breaks as people who let fun happen organically. Turns out, scheduling relaxation makes relaxation feel a lot like work.

So, where does the balance lie? How can busy entrepreneurs schedule their days without overextending or underachieving? The answer, as usual, depends on balance -- but a balance that favors structure over chaos. Consider the following reasons to schedule more and hustle less:

1. Longer hours don’t translate to higher productivity.

In cutthroat startup culture, many entrepreneurs are convinced that success means outworking everyone else by a few minutes every day. When everyone believes that, though, those extra minutes stretch long into the night. Eventually, founders work so hard for so long, their efforts stop making any meaningful difference.

Research from Stanford found that productivity drops sharply after 50 hours per week, then drops off a cliff after 55 hours. The difference is so noticeable that a person who works 56 hours is just as productive as a person who works 80 hours.

Founders don’t need to work longer hours. They need to squeeze more life from the time they already work.

Related: Entrepreneurs Need a Better Calendar App Than the 2 Everybody Uses

2. Overpromising leads to misaligned priorities.

People who promise the world to everyone invariably disappoint someone (usually multiple someones). For founders who rely on reputation to get their companies off the ground, that kind of bad press can be a death sentence. Not only that, but the more a business owner promises, the easier it becomes to lose sight of what’s truly important to the company’s success.

Instead of committing every hour to the grind, founders need to learn when to say “no” to projects and tasks that don’t substantially benefit their businesses. For some, that means learning to delegate. For others, that means taking a hard look at how the business operates and choosing to focus on one area, such as sales, above all others. Your productivity habits will show in the work that you do.

Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author, recommends that busy people ask themselves one question before agreeing to do something: “Would I do this tomorrow?” If the answer is no, the project probably isn’t as important to the business owner as it is to the person asking.

Related: 3 Simple Scheduling Changes That Made Me 3.28X More Productive

3. Even overworked successes follow rough schedules.

Startup culture glorifies the grind because many of its icons exemplify it. However, just because a person advocates for hard work does not mean that person puts hustle above schedule.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of both Twitter and Square, famously interviewed about how he worked 8-hour days at both companies during the week. He didn’t charge into work without a plan, though. Instead, he gave every day a theme, which he followed at both companies every day. Mondays, for instance, were for management and big-picture projects. Fridays were for company culture and recruiting.

A schedule doesn’t have to be rigid. Many of the most successful people in the world follow fluid schedules, so they can adapt to new challenges throughout the day. The point is not to micromanage every minute: the point is to make the most of the time at hand.

Let everyone else hustle themselves to death. People who sprint down the path to success usually fall off course. Those who take the time to map out their journey, though, are better prepared for the trials down the road.

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