Last time you heard from me I was jabbering on about my mom building a table and me trying to make the next Pixar movie. More importantly, I think, I was talking about the reason people work. The big WHY? Are you in it because you have to be or because you want to be. Now, I’m going to talk a little bit about the how. Now, unless you have a VERY progressive employer, this advice is really just for the self employed but you should read this because you’re already pretty invested, right? What’s another couple hundred words. You might just learn something.

I don’t have a set schedule. I don’t work Monday to Friday, I don’t work 9-5 and I don’t take holidays. Now, that’s not to say that I never holiday. In fact, I holiday often. What I mean is that I have arranged by schedule so that I don’t have to “book” a vacation. Instead, I work when there is work to be done. I never “plug” away. I don’t punch a time clock, as you would expect from someone who is self employed. But I’ll tell you a secret. If I had a hundred employees, or a thousand, I would still do the exact same thing. And I would expect the same from them.

Our work system is fundamentally flawed. Seriously. It’s flawed. Do you work in an office? Do you ever spend more time looking at a clock rather than doing something productive? Why is that? It’s because we’ve been conditioned to be time based rather than task based. Now, there are jobs that are absolutely time based. But not as many as you might think. The issue is that a switch to task based systems creates an issue for the employer and the employee. Let me explain. You have an employee that works 40 hours per week. In that 40 hours they create 40 units. You’ve scheduled them for 40 hours because you require 40 units from them. Now imagine that they start working harder and harder, perfecting their craft, improving their process, to a point where they are able to create 40 units in 20 hours. What do you do?

If you’re almost every business over the course of the last hundred years or so? You do absolutely nothing. Either you expect that employee to start creating 80 units, or you make them a manager for that department (thus taking probably your best worker out of the equation), or you fire somebody else because they’re not able to keep up with that pace. Or, in too many situations, that person just slows down, keeps up a normal pace, and creates 40 units in 40 hours. Let me tell you a story.

I used to be a Team Manager and Trainer in a call center. Don’t fret. I actually mostly enjoyed it. In any case, I managed a team of 16-20 agents responsible for incoming customer service. Myself and a co-worker listened regularly to our peers talk about how it was impossible to get through all the work that was expected of them in a 40 hour work week. Too many coaching sessions, too much support, too much monitoring, too many reports. We just sort of looked at each other. And shrugged. They were just wrong. It wasn’t hard to do the work in the time we had. Most of those co-workers were smokers, who took more than their share of breaks, chatted, checked social media, non-work email, etc. And there’s nothing wrong with those things…if you have a process in place, which they didn’t.

My peer an I decided to do a little research. If we busted our ass, really focused on the process, didn’t take unnecessary breaks, supported each other properly, etc, how long would it take to do our job. Our calculations? Between 26-30 hours per week. We took our findings to our manager and do you know what we were told? Guess. I’ll wait.

“Don’t tell anyone about this.” That was what we were told. Why? Because if people knew that our job could be done in that amount of time, they would cut our pay to reflect these new hours. There would be no commendation for process improvement, no reward for being a go-getter. Work your 40 hours, faking it as much as you could (I used to plug my headphones into a box of Kleenex in order to fake listening to calls) and just work.

WHEN I am managing a team of hundreds, we will never, ever, ever, have a set number of hours that we work. Each employee will be responsible for tasks (with exceptions for a few time based fields) and when those tasks are complete they can either go home and relax, or find something to do. If you reward innovative people with time away from work as well as the time to innovate, you will be blown away with the results.

Do the same in your own life. Give yourself time to just be awesome. Time to think. Time to doodle. Time to breathe. You will be blown away with the results.