Hacking the 80-hour Workweek – How To Stay Sane and Keep Your Family Whole While Running a Startup


Work life balance in the US, especially Silicon Valley, tilts a different way than it does for Europeans. Europe has its six weeks+ of vacation; in the US, two weeks is common, which people mostly don’t even take. Silicon Valley culture celebrates the workaholic, the all-nighter, the 80-hour workweek. What’s a Euro entrepreneur – with a spouse and kids – to do?



A few things you might want to think about when you consider the Valley lifestyle:

Most people think the most critical resource they have is MONEY. At some point in their life, they realize it is actually TIME.

The universe has been around for about 13.7 billion years, the Earth for roughly 4.5 billion, homo sapiens for roughly 400,000 years, and you – if you are lucky – will be around for 78 years total (add 6 years if you are under 25, another 4 years for good behavior and bonus points if you are female).

Time is scarcer than money, and you really don’t have all that much.

So don’t measure yourself by how many hours you work! Focus on OUTCOMES. The entrepreneur who is really effective generates positive results and can actually spend some time with his family and friends, and should not be wracked by guilt by working a non-suicidal workweek. Don’t drink the Silicon Valley Kool-Aid on this subject.

Progress is not measured in time, and results are not a function of hours. More than 90% of startups fail, not because they work too little, but because they focus mainly on the wrong things.

If you have to work eighty hours a week, you are probably not spending your time well. Getting to a successful outcome is about focusing on the right things, eliminating waste, and maximizing efficiency on the stuff that matters.

Pareto’s Law – often referred to as the 80/20 rule – says that 80% of the results are produced by 20% of the effort. Nowhere is this truer than in entrepreneurship.

When he returned to Apple, Steve Jobs eliminated everything but two laptops and two desktops from a morass of product lines. That’s the kind of ruthlessness you need to apply to eliminating waste in your company and your life if you want to build a startup and still have some family time.

Lean Startup, Lean Living. Focus on what matters!

Jeff Snider

Comment