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What I Learned from Taking One Day Off a Week

It’s finally time for me to eat my own dog food.

I’m leading a training called Management by Vacation for the Practice Alchemy community. It helps you determine how much time you can spend away from your practice and still have it run like a well-oiled machine.

It’s an important concept because a real business can’t be forever intertwined with its owner.

It’s a simple concept. Could I get the same amount of stuff done – or more – by reducing my work week from five days to four?

And of course, I'm not about to train people in something that I hadn't only researched, but had succeeded with myself.

Figure Out What's Important

The first thing I was forced to do was reorganize my time to become more efficient.

For example, I only take certain kind of calls on certain days at certain times. Tuesdays and Thursdays I market and sell. Mondays and Fridays I deliver work product and manage staff. Wednesdays? Unplugged, for me.

It made me think more seriously about what things matter and what things don’t. Because when you have less time, you can't waste it. You must prioritize and organize.

You have to be ruthless about what will really make a difference to the future of your business.

So that's part of the solution to the paradox, of how working less helps you get more done. By having one less work day, I was forced to decide what was really important. And I discovered some really fascinating things.

I stopped taking meetings with vendors and colleagues - instead focusing on the few meetings I needed to do to grow my business. I started saying "no" to nearly every meeting request - even to people who I like and respect. Because there's only so much time.

Lack of time is a forcing function. Take a day off a week, and you still need to get the work done. But what you end up with is a shedding of fluff. All the things that we do, but aren't actually driving results in the business. Your to-do list gets much, much shorter - which snowballs into an easier week.

But of course, you're saying, "Wait, what happens if..." What happens if something breaks when you're out? If there's a crisis?

How I Was Able to Disconnect

I’ve always been a neurotic documenter. Every time a new situation presents itself, I write down how to handle it.

If my staff asks a question, they’re told to write down my answer and put it in my operations manual. I don't want to answer the same question more than once. If you don’t have a library, start working on it. You’ll start to realize that you’re not necessary for everything that happens in your firm.

I'm at the point now that sometimes I forget that a certain situation has been documented and handled. Sometimes realizing "Wow, remember when I used to get panicked calls at 5pm on Friday? Glad that's over."

And guess what, taking a day off proved that the system worked. Work came in, clients got serviced, money came in.

But you’ll never know until you squeeze your time to shed the fluff, document your processes, then disconnect.

But a warning: at some point, something "bad" will happen. You'll wish you were there. And the reaction is to run back to the office and go back to reactive, firefighting mode. But the key is to resist that urge. The bad thing, the breakage, is a gift to you. It tells you that here's just one thing you need to fix - with a process that others can handle for you - and you never have to worry about it again. The problem is the boon.

Start small. Reorganize your time and take one day off a week for a few weeks. But don't just do the same-old. Yes, you're taking time for yourself - but you're also being intentional. Carefully thinking through how to use the reduced time to make your practice better.

More time off, a more streamlined business. You won't be sorry.

Raj Jha