Stop trying to run a four minute mile. There are very few people who have the combination of the right genes and significant training to be able to run a mile in four minutes. Now I think we’d all agree that it would be crazy for one of us to say that we need to dedicate significant time and energy to being able to run a four minute mile so that we can travel around town faster. For most of us, clearly a much better idea is just to drive a car. In other words, instead of beating ourselves up and trying with an extreme expenditure of effort and energy to do something, we could use technology to get the same and result much faster and with a lot less effort. And yet in American business there’s this notion that there is somehow merit in working incredibly hard. I think this is the negative side of our famous Protestant work ethic.

America was founded on hard work and I am a big believer in working hard. I would go so far as to say that we were created to work and that working is an important part of who we are as human beings. We go astray when we start focusing on the inputs or the effort we are expending instead of the results or the output. It’s as though we have decided that instead of caring about what we actually produce, we are achieving something just from having expended an enormous amount of effort.

We see this in our culture all the time in subtle ways. I’ve had clients ask me about my clean desk that isn’t piles of papers and jokingly ask me if I was actually ever doing any work. This doesn’t bother me at all because I know they’re just joking, but there’s definitely an idea in American business that if you aren’t super busy you must not be doing well. There isn’t an award for who works the most. On the contrary, the award should go to whoever can produce the most results with the least amount of time at the office. The way to do this is by creating a system. Your day shouldn’t be long because you are busy in the weeds, the processes set in place should allow your team to be efficient enough for you to go home early and play with your kids every once in a while.

Ironically it is sometimes harder to work less. Working more efficiently requires more planning, more thinking. It’s like the old cliche: work smarter not harder. This is actually possible especially today with all the technology we have available to us. One of the biggest leaps I coach businesses through is automating a lot of their bookkeeping processes. You have to be willing to go through a little bit of a learning curve and try new ideas, but if you put in the work to get things set up the right way you can save time and energy for the rest of your career.

Spending four years on the executive team of a software company, I saw firsthand the amazing things that can be done with software. As a CPA who specializes in helping businesses, I want to teach you some of the perspectives I have learned from the tech industry. Let’s talk about working smarter not harder. Let’s talk about you having better books while spending less time and energy each month on those books. It’s not impossible; it’s not even very expensive these days.