The 100 Hour Work Week

Timothy Ferriss has long talked about the 4-Hour Workweek1 and how just about anybody could reject the notion of working from 9-to-5 and enjoy what life has to offer while working the equivalent of a Monday morning. While this sort of pipe dream is certainly what millions of people around the globe would love to do, it's just not feasible for most of us … particularly those of us who would find it hard to outsource our clothes laundering. Lately I've noticed that a great deal of my time is completely blocked up with, for lack of a better word, work. There's just so many things I'm trying to accomplish that in any given week I can find myself working darn near 100 hours between Sunday and Saturday. Every. Single. Week. This is completely my fault, and it needs to stop.

I am currently caught between four very different goals:

  1. improving my Japanese skills
  2. starting a business
  3. starting a family
  4. working a "real" job

When I'm not doing any of those things I'm either eating with the wife2, playing Galaxy on Fire 2, listening to a podcast, writing a blog post, or sleeping. There's just way too much to do, and not enough time to get any of them done with any semblance of quality. So what is a fool like me to do if they can't realistically accomplish everything on a four-point list?

I could always cut something down. Item number 4 is ripe for a reduction in hours considering how a great deal of time during the day is, effectively, downtime. I'm either waiting for a train, on a train, or sitting around waiting for a class to start. Many of my breaks are about 40 minutes in length which, after taking into account paperwork and other preparations, means they're just 25~30 minutes. Nobody can sit down and work on other tasks during this puny block of time. There isn't enough mental space alloted for such a thing3.

But can a person who doesn't currently make enough through his side business to supplant the lost wages that would come with switching from a full-time to part-time workload? In order to do so, I'll need to work a bit harder to get some more clients and land some pretty big projects. There are currently three people I'm in discussions with, but nothing fruitful may come of it. I need to go big, or go home. So what are the options?

There Are Always Options

I've recently started toying with the idea of befriending my dentist. The software in use at his company is just awful. It's ugly. It's annoying. There are 50 tabs on every form, and 20 forms to open and close depending on whether the patient is an Aries or Sagittarius. It's an absolute nightmare. When I talk to the people behind the counter about this, they always shake their head and say "There's nothing else that can do it". This sounds like a prime opportunity for disruption. There's just one problem …

I'm not a dentist. I have no idea what makes software at a dental clinic any different from a customer management system at a calendar company. There are customer records … patient histories … X-Rays … accounting … prescriptions … anything else?

I've discussed writing some new software for the dental clinic, but there has always been a bit of push back with the idea. Why change something that works with something new and unproven? This is the same problem I've run into whenever discussing similar deals with medical clinics, independent pharmacies, and Chinese medicine shops. Nobody wants to pay for something that is new and untested when the current system works … no matter how ugly or inefficient it might be.

So here's what I want to do. I'd like to sit down with my dentist or, preferably, him and some of his staff to discuss what the software needs to do and how it needs to do it. I would pay for this time, of course. From there, I would head back to my bootstrapped business' kitchen table and begin working on solutions that would be elegant and efficient. I would then create the system while receiving feedback on the test versions as time goes on. Once the software is complete, I would give it to the dental clinic free of charge and make the effort of selling it to other dental clinics for half the price of the existing software4.

Truth be told, I'd start selling the software before it was even done. I'd make the rounds to various clinics and talk up the tool, showing them how it works and letting them make requests or criticize the existing designs. I'd be all over this.

There is no real money in web design unless I can use my whole ass. 100% of it is needed, and I would need to find a really good designer to help me out. Good designers aren't cheap, and I don't plan on working for nothing. So that means a more pragmatic approach is required. Since many software engineers are clearly more interested in solving problems for geeks and the average person, I would have very little competition in this field. Heck, my software would most likely fly under the radar for years before the main dental software provider even caught on.

Hopefully by then it will be too late.

I can't keep working 100 hours5 a week. There are more important things that I want to spend time on, and more interesting people I'd like to spend time with. Work is work and then we're dead. I don't want to die and have people say "I didn't really know much about the person, but he did a lot of this work".