How to work less and do more (a reminder to myself)

I am not quite at the point of outsourcing my every waking moment and bodily functions but I am definitely embracing my inner Tim Ferris right now.

This week I’m currently struggling to balance work life and family with my chronic fatigue illness.
This is a theme which becomes back time and time again for me, almost like a lesson that I keep needing to relearn every time about how much I’m able to do versus how much I think I’m able to do.

You would think I would learn, wouldn’t you?!

Whilst I am not at La Ferris standards of the 4 hours week, I am working on a 3 hour working day, and it’s teaching me so much.

My portfolio career has many benefits; design thinking came to my rescue this week for saving my ass and re-working my time.

I spoke to one of my bezzies this week, the superb Emma Sexton who I shared many years with in my earlier career as a designer.
What Emma said really and truly made me laugh;  she looked at my situation and said “Jo, it’s just like a closed brief” – a joke which is designer speak for the kind of brief where the outcomes look as if they were they are pretty much predetermined and there is little room for creativity – ” and if anyone knows how to crack a closed brief with some creativity it’s you!”.
It really made me smile because she is so right!
I haven’t been approaching my own life with the creativity that I teach others to do. I know how to work less and do more, yet I get caught up in the melé of STUFF.

My current the situation is “closed” in that I am very limited in the energy that I have currently.

This means I am limited in the ability to travel, to be out and about, to see people, to work, socialise and manage time in the day since I have to pace and reduce my activities to keep my energy in what I think of as “credit”.


So, my creative approach to this is to see it as a challenge.

It’s always good for me to step back and take a look at exactly how I am working.
Right now as I am having a flareup of CFS kicking me in the butt it’s a good chance to make a new plan, to work on reducing the hours that I work, play and do the things that I think I can do to go right back to the bare bones of activity.

I have devised a new contract with myself to get back over this hump.

I promised myself that I will work no more than 3 hours a day, that I will rest at least 2 to 3 hours a day, and that I will rest in between activities as seemingly easy and mundane* as taking the girls to school, writing a post, doing some housework or even talking to friends.

*yup, for a CFS person in the throes of tiredness these are exhausting tasks!

Right now, time = energy.

But then, it is for all of us, and this lesson in using it wisely applies universally.

So, how am I approaching this in a creative way? I am mapping out time in my newly discovered + beloved  Bullet Journal (more on that in a later post!), and planning out the work and the activities that I need to do, those I want to do, and making sure that they break down into sizeable chunks of time.

As a Type A person I could so easily keep on plodding on and doing more more stuff in the day because I love what I do and I have ideas coming at me all the time, but it just doesn’t work like that for me long term.

I have two amazing children, a job I love, a house to run and amazing friends and family I want to see and spend time with alongside my personal projects. It can all happen, just in moderation, and step by step.
If I train myself to only work a couple of hours in the day, I not only get as much done as I need to, but in fact it tends to be of a better quality.
As an online entrepreneur, my ultimate goal is to is to work remotely for a couple of hours a day and to be able to travel with my children and to work from anywhere.  Breaking free from the conventional work model is something I am already doing, and this  situation is forcing me to do even more.
It is amazing how much can be done in just 2 to 3 hours a day off work simply by eliminating unneccessary time sucks.
  • I also means managing my own expectations; I may have learned to say no to clients I don’t want to work with, to say no to time sucking favours, but I haven’t learned to say no to myself.

The lesson that I’m constantly re-learning time and time again, is that I am capable of doing so much but by actually working less.

It’s what I teach others, is what I talk about with absolute passion all the time and yet it can be so hard to remind myself that I need to do that myself.
I no longer swap time for money as my model of earning a wage, and every time I re-live this scenario and have to limit like myself to the amount of hours I work in a day it is a great reminder that I actually can work a lot less to be able to achieve so much.
My programmes are online, my content is online,  my clients are global and accessible at all hours in all different time zones,  and I simply don’t need to be plugged in online as much as I think I do or maybe want to be.


In fact, I have finally now reached the stage that I can run things with the most minimal effort ever which is just wonderful, so it’s a great reminder to do so as my body is reaching out again for some rest.


My new boundaries and my new contract to myself over the next few weeks as I regain some strength again is to work no more than 2 to 3 hours a day,  to meditate for 20 minutes every day, to get exercise for at least half an hour and to limit the amount of tasks that I take on all assigned to myself.
Making that commitment to meditate for 20 minutes every day whilst also reducing my working hours may seem really counter-productive, but in actual fact I’m able to get so much more than in a much more mindful way.
The ultimate goal is to regain my strength day by day so that I will be able to do more every week, but I always need to remember to hold some back in reserve.  Whilst I can find it really frustrating at times that I’m not able to do as much as I want to or as much as I want to, I know that by limiting myself and allowing rest to come is the only way that I will be able to regain my strength.
There are probably times in your life where you need to operate on the barebones – maybe during the school holidays, during a family emergency situation, or during illness. Working smarter in less time is a skill when you need to grab some space. Or even grab some life…
The school holidays are approaching quickly and I plan to take August off to be with Eva and Mia, so this is fantastic preparation for working less in lieu of making sandcastles, playing in the park and getting creative with the minis.

Although chronic fatigue may not be your current bugbear, maybe you are feeling overwhelmed, or feeling burnt out as well?

If so I would really love to hear what challenges you might face with reducing your hours of work to be more manageable.

Let’s rock the “only work 3 hours a day and do less headless chicken shit” biz model :)

Stay super,

jo gifford

P.S, if you liked this, you may also like the podcast I recorded this week on the same theme.



Jo Gifford

My work is about helping people work in smarter, creative ways + getting their message out to the world via killer content—blogs, copy, images + social. I am a designer, writer, blogger, mentor, author, creativity addict + prolific geek. You could call it a portfolio career of multi-potential multi-passions. I call it being me.
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